We’re about halfway through January, the talks of “starting over” and “living better” still reverberating in our ears. Some of you might be on the other side of a defining moment or event, knowing that you can’t go back, but are stick in the uncertainty of moving forward. You’re aware that you’re made new, but unsure of how to embrace what’s ahead without trying to block out what was (and probably still is) difficult to get over.
Where do I go from here?
How do I let anyone love me while I’m still learning how to love myself?
For most of our lives, we’ve all been fed some type of talk or teaching about the kind of people we should be, especially women:
Don’t make mountains out of molehills.
Do this, but don’t do too much of that.
The internet is constantly comparing one type to another, even if it is centered on praising what the rest turn up their noses at. In order to be deserving of romance, you must meet all these prerequisites, which seem to boil down to not having flaws, insecurities, or any kind of past that requires grace and patience.
When vulnerability is met with bristling and rejection, it’s common to resort to questioning and blaming ourselves. This is where the lines between truth and feelings become blurry, because what might look like reality could be all in your head. It’s this kind of origami-like, hoop-jumping, obstacle course that makes having close relationships almost impossible. Intimacy seems foreign, because most of what you say and do has slowly become about the sake of someone else’s comfort. You don’t want to necessarily please or impress them, but you don’t want to push them away either. You’re trying to accept and love others as they are, but deep down you wonder if you’re sacrificing yourself, your own emotional well-being in the process.
Complex and complicated are actually two vast different concepts, despite sounding similar. When labeling something complicated, it’s a way to deny what you know to be true, what you know must be done, but struggling to come up with the courage to acknowledge either one. Being complex is having multiple layers, a history filled with stories and experiences that maybe you don’t quite know what to do with. You’re not a victim, but you’re not merely a survivor either; by God’s grace and the skin of your own teeth, you’ve been through a lot and have come out the other side. It’s OK to not know right away, to leave a situation undefined and let the puzzle pieces come together on their own. Some days are peaceful, while others involve doing your best to hold it together. Life can be messy; it can be brutal, but it can be just as beautiful too.
It’s one thing to be captive, but it’s another thing entirely to go forth and be captivated.
You can define, tailor, and project all you want, but intention does not necessarily affect perception. Keeping it surface level or “chill” does not mean you have control over anything; it will build up, it will come out, and most likely in a way that you didn’t envision or want. Stop trying to decide if someone can or should love you, and let them be the one to figure that out for themselves. There’s no formula or process for forging connection, and most likely you’ll experience your share of slip-ups and moments that you wish you could take back.
And if heaven forbid anyone run the other direction because you choose to be a human being, that’s their responsibility, not yours. Its tempting to cry out against the hypocrisy of saying that life is tough, because those that say it are often the ones too afraid to face their struggles, the pain that haunts them on a regular basis.
You need people who will not only fall in love with your smile, but will just as equally love your scars.
We all have them, the things that add a bit of gray, even darkness to our existence. What labels some as simpletons depends on how they’ve dealt with it. They have memories, but they also have perspective and are at peace with what they can’t change.
It is possible to be both multi-faceted and whole, to go through hell and still find purpose. But it’s not a singular journey, or something that anyone can do without help. It’s true that you really aren’t the only one go through something, but if often feels that way because you think you’re the only one talking about it. I’ve been fortunate enough to find to find a tribe, people that know me well enough to affirm me and celebrate my quirks and complexities, but will still call me out on my bullshit when they see it. They’re an amazing support system, but they also remind of how just how strong a person I am, and that I can get through pretty much anything.
Maybe instead of having to explain ourselves or constantly heed warnings toward those who cross our paths, we should just be. Be true to what you know and what you value, and leave the thorn-pruning to God. Let’s learn to see depth and complexity as a gift, rather than a curse that makes us outsiders or impossible to love.
It has taken me many years, but I’m warming up to the opportunity to be an example, to live fully in a world that is more inclined to gloss over and sugarcoat, rather than dig deep. I’ve been in the trenches of having to shine a light in darkness, and despite the time it will take, the risk is so worth the reward.
Even if that reward is getting to experience the freedom of simply no longer carrying the weight of a dire situation on your shoulders.
It starts with acceptance, and honoring who you are. Perhaps one day, it will lead to love and celebration.
Thank you, Brad Paisley, for reminding us all that it’s OK to carry a little thunder.