As I’ve recently mentioned (in a pretend-casual kind of way) in other posts, I’ve been dating someone. I’m biting my tongue not to share more about it, but it’s in that awkward early stage, where you’re not quite sure whether it’s really going to be anything and you don’t honestly know what the hell is going on. Whether you’re a couple or not. (As an aside, how do you know that bit? Seriously, is there a conversation I have to have? I genuinely don’t know.) And, of course, because I never seem to find an easy path through life, he’s not exactly local, either. So, for now, I’ll be keeping the details to myself.
What I do want to talk about is how my heart is feeling. Because my heart is feeling vulnerable. Being left hurts. It’s really damaged my levels of trust. Damaged my self-esteem. And done so more than I’d realised, to be honest. When I opened myself up to the possibility of love again, I began to react in ways that I hadn’t before. I’ve been anxious. Nervous. Weepy and emotional. Full of self-doubt and second-guessing myself, my every move and that of the person I’m dating.
What I’ve started to realise is that I’m potentially seeing things that are not there. Just because one person does a certain thing, behaves in a certain way, it doesn’t mean that everyone else does too. One person’s character is not every other person’s character. I must not see patterns in behaviour that belong to someone else; I need to remember to notice actual behaviour, words and actions, instead of making assumptions without any proof. And I must be honest about my own flaws (because I definitely have plenty) but not confuse them with the weight of self-doubt laid on my shoulders as a result of someone else deciding they didn’t want to be with me. My friends have helped me to see that there is a difference between the truth and the painful little stories that I’ve been telling myself. Time and conversations and really examining my history and the role I have played in events that have passed–even when it’s uncomfortable–are helping me to cope and helping me find clarity about how I’m feeling.
Despite feeling vulnerable, I want to be open to love. To the potential that I might fall in love again. Because, if I’m not, then I think I might be missing one of the greatest reasons for living. To love and to be loved is surely one of the most important of things. If not, then why is it the source of our stories? Our music, films, art and novels? We know it’s the most studied of human conditions and a source of endless fascination–even when it’s going wrong. There must be a reason for this… And, I’ve realised that although I continue to enjoy time alone, and I’ve really benefitted from it, I miss having a partner.
I would like to be in love.
The vulnerability that I feel about romantic love is bolstered by the security I have in other forms of love. My children, my family, my friends–some of whom have become increasingly close recently– have love for me that hopefully won’t change, regardless of whether I fail in my newly considered quest for a partner. I am enormously lucky to be surrounded and supported by it. And that security is what will enable me to take risks. To allow myself the chance to fall in love, and to know that if it never happens, or if it all falls apart again, then I have love in other forms. I will never be truly alone, because the love of these people secures my place in the world; it gives me belonging. Knowing that other people love me– and that I belong with them, flaws and all– is helping me to regain some of my lost confidence. Because if all these other people think that I’m worthy of their love, then I can’t be so bad, can I? And if you cannot love another more than you love yourself, then this is an important thing for me to realise and to work on.
These days, I believe that romantic love will never be totally secure for anyone; it’s a strange nebulous thing that exists between two people that I’m not sure can really be wholly quantified and measured. Love can change without you realising. Regardless of how you feel, the other person is not in your control. And, that’s actually what makes it wonderful. That it’s not something you can ever have all the answers for, regardless of whether you spend a lifetime together or not. It’s rather brave that we choose this at all, actually.
So, I’ll continue to work on my flaws, I’ll continue to try to be the kind of person I’d want to date and I’ll be open and honest in my search for love. Because, deep down, I know I’m worthy of it. And, my lovely date really wants to see me again, so right now, he thinks I am too…
PS: The beautiful image at the top of this post is by super-talented Annie Spratt and available via Unsplash. Dahlias are my absolute favourite flower, and I thought you might like it as a change from a photo of my face… I get to spend this weekend with Annie and a bunch of other wonderful women from my Folklings tribe and I’m very excited about it. Will share more afterwards.