It has been a time of relearning myself, and I would like to share some of the things I’ve found.
Lesson Number One: Sometimes, rules should be broken.
I did not, in fact, remain dateless for sixth months. I did not enter into a relationship with anyone, but my original intention for the six month time period was to refrain from considering any person as a romantic interest. However, I broke my own rules and went to coffee once, a movie once, and dinner twice.
These weren’t even all “official” dates, but I went with the intention of figuring out whether or not there could be romantic development there, so I count it as an infraction of my original guidelines for these sixth months.
However, I don’t regret it at all. Not a single second of my rule-breaking was wasted, because those handful of evenings taught me some very important things about myself. I’ll continue to explain what I learned as I go.
Lesson Number Two: It’s alright to say no.
My entire life has been full of struggling to please everyone around me. It’s an impossible and exhausting task which makes human hearts mere echoes of the voices they hear, instead of the vibrant bundles of genuine emotions they’re meant to be. I’ve practiced it for too long, for so long that I began to corner myself in between walls of expectations and exceptions in all of my dealings with people.
At some point in the past few months, I saw with great clarity how much of my own answers were not in fact mine. And I began to speak, so long overdue, for my own self.
And this meant saying no to things I would have always said yes to. It meant putting my own needs before someone else’s when they asked me to compromise myself for their own satisfaction. And that was hard.
But I think I’ve finally begun to learn that my own emotions and desires and needs are not lesser than anyone else’s. They’re certainly not greater, but they’re not smaller or insignificant. They make me who I am.
Lesson Number Two: The art of learning how to love yourself.
I have utterly mucked this up for so long in my life. I have wallowed in self-effacing humor and self-doubt for so long that my skin is crusted with that mud.
Six months ago, if you asked me if I was ugly, I would have said “yes” without hesitation.
If you asked me if I was worthy of any kind of loving, I would have said “I don’t think so” in the kind of voice that follows a down turned face and tightly clasped fingers that only hold the heartbreak closer.
If you asked me to list the things I loved, I could have talked for hours, but I would have never named myself.
But now, after having spent six months alone in my own heart instead of dwelling in the heart of another, I have finally begun to see my own worth. And the next time I fall in love, if I fall in love again, it will be a better kind of love because I will not have to hide in their heart to avoid the empty caverns of my own. I’ve learned the corners of it anew, and won’t need someone else to fill it for me. I’ve remembered it is already perfectly filled all on its own.
I am imperfect and I have flaws. I know them well, as I have painted them like graffiti on the walls of my mind for far too long in colors that never really suited me anyway.
But, my goodness, I am also lovely. And worthy of loving. And I have only just discovered it. And if I ran my hands down along my sides, I swear that I might look down at my palms to find some golden dust there, because I am growing into something that has wings on my shoulders instead of weights and I am learning how to fly above the barren field I’ve sowed in for too long.
Lesson Number Three: Relearning the cardinal rule of every English teacher ever – revise and edit.
When I was sixteen, I made a list of things I wanted in my someday, one day, one true love. I remember some key points:
- Blue eyes
- Nice hands
- A good jawline
- Life goals
- A sense of humor
I’m sure there were other things, but I remember so clearly knowing that this is exactly what I wanted. I remember my dad laughing when I read it to him, with paramount stoicism, and being so offended when he laughed and said “okay, good luck with that!”
Yes, good luck with that, my dear, because I know that you will find exactly what is on your list, and it will be a hollow echo of what you really need. But you will cling to that list for eight long years until it is wadded and crumpled, tear-stained in your hand, as you ask “What am I doing wrong?!”
You’re not doing anything wrong. You’re looking for the wrong things.
So, in the interest of fulfilling my contractual obligation as a teacher of the Englishes, I present to you my second draft:
- Eyes that seek and see the goodness in the world and people around them, while not being blind to reality.
- Hands that reach out to help, that are full of strength for the jobs I don’t know how to do and full of guidance for the things I want to learn how to do and capable of being gentle when life is not.
- A jawline that edges a face full of compassion and laughter, which is frequently down turned in prayer or lifted up in praise of the Hands that carved it.
- Goals of a life lived in service to God, of a making a life with me, of sharing all the ups and downs of life and staying resilient through it all.
- Laughter that does not mock or chastise, but which celebrates the thousand ridiculous and hilarious things that happen when people share life together.
- The kind of romance that does not fade with attraction, flirtation, or passion. The romance of watching another person grow and falter and struggle and toil and learn and choosing to love them in every stage and every day.
And I say to myself again, good luck.
Finding something as precious as love in this life is the most challenging adventure. But I am so thankful for my journey thus far, all the parts and pieces of it that have made my heart.
I used to think the seams and crooked stitches made it a broken thing.
But now, I understand.
The most important lesson I learned in the past six months was this: I learned to understand the hues and fabrics which make up my lovely patchwork heart.