Matilda perched on my new sofa which I assembled myself (woo!) from IKEA.
I haven’t said a whole lot since I made the announcement that the wedding I’d been planning was no longer happening. It’s taken some time for me to process my new life, assemble my IKEA furniture and establish a cadence to what daily living was going to feel like for the last few weeks. Matilda and I are quite the team in our new pad, living the bachelorette life as two gals in the city would- with adorable sweaters and a puzzled look on our face.
I can honestly say that if there was anything that got me through the last month and a half, it was gratitude. There is no other emotion, when cultivated that is as powerful at overcoming despair as gratitude. There is a time to fight, there is a time to hustle, there is a time to mourn, but to get through any rough patch with your sanity and your soul intact, one must be grateful, and grateful, I truly am.
As we head into Thanksgiving week, I sincerely hope that each of us will take time to pause and be grateful. Marketers are already telling us how to fill our lives with the superfluous and supplying us with the credit lines to do so. Isn’t it funny how a holiday intended simply to break bread with loved ones and be grateful is being overshadowed by the glitzy holiday of consumerism (which was created to honor a religious figure who was really the opposite of what the holiday has come to embody: excess. Just my two cents.)?
This is probably the lesson I am most grateful for. If you’re like me, you most likely walk around, assuming that everyone has some great secret to life figured out that you haven’t quite mastered, or hell, even discovered. It seems, everyone knows you better than you do (they love to say “I told you so”), or knows how things really work (because they have a friend that has done so-n-so), or perhaps, they love to share some blaring insight about your situation that is completely obvious now, but would have been really flippin’ useful a few months back. But where was that insight? It was just as hidden to them as it was to you.
What is the one secret to people who married their high school sweethearts and stayed married for 40 years? What is the one secret to eternal happiness and glowing families? What is the key to success, fulfillment, joy, satisfaction, legacy? People are usually selling something when they tell you- because there is no one factor that ensures we have long happy marriages, personal success or fulfilled lives.
I’ve learned that not one person, who looks back on their lives with a feeling of satisfaction, or who has achieved success, was 100% sure of that outcome when they started. Let this knowledge really seep in and free you. We’re all stumbling little fools doing this for the very first time. We’re all looking for love and really don’t know to keep it alive for lifetimes, we’re all trying to build a legacy in times that have always been ever changing and uncertain.
People are a kaleidoscope of emotions and a unique patchwork of choices. You can chart your own course, and you must, with the best data you can assemble, forge a path for yourself, but feel the freedom in knowing that it’s a crazy gamble no matter how much research you complete and advice you seek. Take the pressure off your back as you trudge forward. Nobody has ever, ever known, with all certainty, that this was going to be the winning horse. Place your bets and make sure you can live with the risk of your decisions- then go have a hell of a good time along the way as the race runs out.
I remember that first morning I woke up and knew I couldn’t get married. I knew I had to call it off, and I can tell you, it felt like the loneliest place on the planet. In my mind’s eye, I looked out at all the timelines, people and ambitions I had mapped out for myself for years into my future, and they all seemed to dissipate before my eyes and I was left standing alone. Alone of course, aside from the horribly crushing decision that made me feel like I had lost everything in the first place…it would gladly keep me company, reminding me that all the many things I had charted out for my life as a married woman- the friends, the family, the dreams and memories, they would be gone. It’d be just me and Mr. Heavy Decision from now on for companionship.
I laid in bed, tears streaming down my face, my eyes tight shut, trying to keep them from coming. Then, I opened my eyes. I was not alone. There was love. I had to be brave. You are never, ever, be left with nothing. Though it’s true that personal turmoil brings out the true colors in people, you may lose friends, but you gain many (often times, you gain a richness and deepness with the relationships you already have). When you have nothing left, and you are nearly defeated, stop listening to the news anchor in your mind and open your eyes- you will find tremendous love. The narrator in your head will be screaming that you’ll be alone and the world is grim, but it isn’t true- open your eyes. Love will find you swiftly.
I am a stubborn, independent and driven person. I never thought that Prince Charming was going to show up, sparking the “happily ever after,” which closes all the fairy tales. Yet, I can tell you, for some odd reason, I still held out hope that when love arrived, he would be some kind of brilliant mind reader who knew how to stir my soul with romantic gestures and skillful affections. I’ve seen very happy couples that make my heart melt like butter and deeply wished that kind of love would be true for me someday. One couple whom I adore, struck me with a morning ritual that just is honey sweet, which has shaped my expectations since. Each morning, he would drive to Starbucks before she woke up and get coffee for the two of them, so they’d be sure to have quality time together before starting busy days. Swoon. You could see in his eyes and in the way he spoke, that his affection for her seemed to gush out of him. It still make my heart happy to think of the deep friendship, affection and the little ways they cultivate puppy-love after years of marriage.
For years, I foolishly assumed that affection like this is natural. It is not. It is cultivated, and it is cultivated by both partners in a relationship. You must both ask and give it. Not once, in any of my relationships was this a comfortable feat for me. Asking for flowers was hard for me, but it was profound. To me, it seemed to defeat the purpose to ask for such a selfish thing, to ask for affection, but I came to a two pronged realization since I became single. First, you teach others how to treat you- show them by doing and begin early. Second, do not wait for someone to show up and do the sweet things that will make your heart flutter- you may be waiting a long ass time.
Since this all started, I began the habit of picking up a $5 bouquet of roses every few weeks from Trader Joe’s. My space is never without flowers now. It is not silly to do something kind for yourself. It is though, very silly to wait for someone else to do it for you. If it makes you joyful, you owe it to yourself to do it. By the time love shows up- you will not only have habits, but standards. You will not have to sheepishly ask, what you require will be communicated in the very way you live. If you’re waiting for someone to show up, love you deeply and take you to Cancun, why are you wasting your time? Go now. If you stop by the flower aisle every time you grocery shop, cut the BS and buy yourself a bouquet.
Lesson learned- your ideas of romance may seem foolish, but if you want to really feel silly, sit on your ass and wait for someone else to show up and to validate your desires. Just sit there, wait, and tell me you don’t feel like an ass. 😉 Buy the damn flowers.