The coffee table in my basement is a destroyer of children. When my oldest, Dylan, was hardly more than a toddler, he was picking up his toys and cracked the corner of his eye on it, earning his first stitches.
But I was the table’s first victim. When I was four, racing through the house to get my shoes so I could go to Scotty’s Hardware with my dad, I wiped out and gave myself a helluva black eye. Instead of going to the store--and getting an ice cream cone--I was left behind to sob inconsolably on my mother’s lap.
I recently ventured back into the dating world. It’s the first I’ve really opened myself up to the idea that I could find someone else since The One Who Makes Me Smile broke my heart. And I did meet someone I thought seemed nice. We had a lot in common and he told me how beautiful I was, something I sorely needed to hear after the six-month torturous death of my last relationship. That first foray into the dating world ended as abruptly as it began, though. I bounced back pretty quickly, but there was a day I was pretty down about it.
I was talking to my sister on that particular day and she brought up the Scotty’s incident from all those years ago. She said she often wondered what that did my psyche, the fact that I was racing through the house so I wouldn’t be left behind. And when I fell, he didn’t scoop me up to tend my wounds. He left me behind. She said I’d spent my life chasing perfection to earn love. That all I’d ever wanted was to belong, to find where I fit. Apparently both of my sisters had been discussing it the other day, that men took advantage of that in me and they worried about me now that I was dating again. I think the last two years were hard on the people who loved me because they worried all along he’d break my heart.
Sometimes I feel like my family doesn’t really see me. Not who I truly am. In that moment, though, I felt like both of my sisters saw right through to the most vulnerable parts of my soul.
I stayed with a publisher who was bad for my career because of the sense of family it gave me. I stayed in a bad marriage more than a decade after I knew it was dead because I didn’t want to lose his family. I could point to a lot of times I stayed longer than I should have in jobs, relationships, or situations because of that sense of belonging.
My whole life, I have craved family. Not just flesh and blood, but the tribe of people you belong to. I think raising my boys helped with that, but as my time with them rapidly draws to a close--or at least, with them as we are now--I think it’s bothering me more and more than I haven’t found my person yet. I want a family. I want somewhere to go on holidays, people to gather at the lake with or coming and going from my house at gatherings. But I’d be truly thrilled to find my person. The one I can tell anything to. The one who has my back no matter what. The one who won’t leave me behind.
It’s hard to admit this. I sometimes feel a bit like the only place I do belong is on the Island of Misfit Toys because I haven’t found that person. A friend tells me it’s because I live life full speed ahead and I keep picking boys who can’t keep up. He’s not wrong.
Maybe that’s the problem. I’ve spent my life trying to be perfect for someone who was never going to be perfect for me. I’ve given myself black eyes for people who didn’t deserve my time, let alone my heart.
This year has been one of immense pain but also immense growth. Of letting go and new beginnings. I’m learning to lean in to my feelings. To trust them. To not be so hard on myself. To give myself credit for things I’ve done right and let myself off the hook for the missteps.
I can feel this terrible, wonderful year leading me to something better. To being someone better. Or, at very least, to being okay with the someone I am. While there are times I question his judgment, God made me who I am for a reason. The world must have needed one of me. I’m not just a spare part.
This past weekend was spent at a music festival with my boys. We had an amazing time and I met all kinds of wonderful people. Something about the weekend brought all of this full circle for me. I realized I’ve found a place I belong, a job that’s as much a family as a career move. Friends who love me. And my boys aren’t leaving. Our family will only grow as they do.
I also realized I’ve led an amazing life. I mean, it’s occurred to me before, but it really washed over me again this weekend. My life has been truly phenomenal. It’s full to the brim with people from all over the world who I love and who love me, even if I haven’t found that one person to do the day-to-day stuff with.
And I have to believe my person is still out there. Maybe I’ve already met him. Maybe not. But until I do, I’m determined to do a better job of guarding my heart. No more black eyes for me. At least, not the self-inflicted kind.
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