And if I built a fortress / around your heart/ and circled you in trenches and
barbed wire… Sting
Well over 90,000 hours ago, back when I was still single, I felt desperate.
I wanted some resolution and consistency. I wanted to be done with falling for guys who had problems and addictions, guys who I felt compelled to fix and change and save. I was tired of cracking open my heart to these guys and not liking what I saw, and not being supported in what I experienced. I wanted someone who understood me for me. Actually, I wanted someone who understood me better than I did.
My husband and I met at a personal growth workshop. That was me breaking out of the mold of getting drunk and following some guy home from the bar. (I was never really one of those girls, but to the benefit of my life experiences I did try this once or twice). That was November. By February, on one of my weekend visits (we lived in separate cities at the time), I had the sense that we were practicing getting acquainted for when I would move in a few months later. I had no plans to do this and neither did he, but the thought stuck and manifested. I moved in after I finished my final semester in school.
I can’t say that it has always been smooth or easy, but it has always been right. I never doubted, in my most honest places, that he was right for me. He has been supportive, amazing, loving, tolerant, entertaining, and true. He has always been “home.”
But a good relationship does not a life make. I think back to my life before I was in a relationship and look at the person I was. I was in ‘relationship’ with myself, and it was a struggle.
Some people believe that we don’t change: our morals, principles, beliefs, and core personality traits are not swayed by life or experiences. I don’t believe this; I think we can and do change. We call this growth.
Through the support and willingness and permission of my husband I have been through tremendous growth. Being in a relationship and having kids just forces this on you, ready or not. I say I had my husband’s permission but I don’t mean this in a submissive or obedient way. He gave me the permission to be whomever I wanted by loving me all the same.
I know that I am a loving and supportive partner; if I had the choice I would probably date me now. But I am not always loving or supportive with myself. I have struggled -and continue to struggle- with this. It is much quieter and more subtle now, but I have a busy mind and am full of calculations and negative affirmations. It is no longer the ‘pretty enough’ or ‘skinny enough’ whispers of a singleton’s life that lead me to say, “if only….” Now I have different reasons.
Today, on this day of extra chocolate and chubby winged children with pointed sticks, I think about my relationship to myself. We are all, foremost, in relationship to ourselves. The world and our external relationships reflect this back to us. I wonder about the fortress I have built around my heart. I have let in those close to me, but I have not accepted myself as I am.
I am not sure what would happen if I loved myself for who I am. Part of me fears that I would lose control. I may no longer be the person I have roles for: a mother, a runner, a friend, a wife. Maybe I would not be so compartmentalized and rational. I would not know what to expect so clearly. Maybe I would have more fun. Maybe I would surprise myself. Maybe I would like myself.
Today, I choose to pay attention to myself. I want to support my Self and be her friend. I don’t want to feel desperate or sad. Things really are okay; there is love in the fortress.