when you (don’t) know they’re the one

They ask me, how do you know?

How do you discover love? How are you sure they are right for you? How, well, how did -you- know? I mean, you’re in love now, yes? So how did you know when it happened?

When what happened? When a bolt of lightning filled with hearts and rainbow glitter struck my body? When Cupid’s arrow pierced my heart? How did I know what? That this was now a person to whom to bind my life with theirs till death do us part? Ummm. I’m not dead yet, thank you very much. I’ll let you know how it goes, I promise.

What does that mean, anyway, when I say that I -know-?

I mean, yes, by now I suspect. I even strongly believe. But do I know? Hmmmm. Love can seem quite elusive, sometimes.

But I don’t believe love is something that you simply know and move on, but rather something you feel and remember and build. Day after day after day. Not a tedious motion, but a soothing and reassuring presence in one’s day. And it doesn’t matter when or where you feel it, because it will come on its own time. And on it’s own terms.

I still, if I’m honest, don’t know if I’m loved. At least some days, I don’t know. 

Platonic, familial, romantic, whichever sort of love the person in question and I might share. I still doubt their love for me, especially when they leave my sight. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Do they still love me, I wonder? And then I see them again, we reconnect, perhaps we hug or kiss. Or they excitedly tell me about something they think I’ll love, too. And I remember, yes they love me. 

But still…I don’t always know. Even after decades of near daily “proof.” What more do I need, you ask? I couldn’t tell you. But those insecurities push through to my the surface of my conscious, nonetheless.

I ask “my” love, who loved before he met me: How did you know that you loved her? Did you know that you loved her?

You thought you knew that she loved you. You thought you knew how she felt about you. You aren’t easily duped, and, yet, well, here you are. And there she is. And neither the two shall meet.

You thought she loved you, and maybe she thought she loved you, too. Neither you or I will ever know the truth, after all. She won’t tell you now, even if you asked. But you said you loved her, and she said she loved you. And you both told yourselves that you meant it. That you knew. That this was the life you had to lead.

I made the same mistakes when I loved others.

I thought I knew that I loved this person, and that person. I told myself if I didn’t love them, I should move on. So even if I wasn’t in love, I convinced myself I loved them, at least enough. Because otherwise, I would have to leave, and I didn’t want to leave.

But now I don’t remember their names. Was that love after all? Perhaps. I made myself believe I knew it was love, at any rate.

But it wasn’t more real than the love I feel now. Even though I still question that love from you, from others.

Love isn’t more real, you see, simply because you know.

If you ever do. Oh, I know we want it to be true. That we’ll be struck by a wave of overpowering emotion. It’s a nice fantasy, but after all fantasies are rather empty at the end of the day.

So, my loves, I didn’t know you would love me the next day or the next. I read that if you don’t know it’s love in six months, you should move on. Except I didn’t. I still won’t. And here I am. And here you are. And nobody is going anywhere.

I believe you love me now. Even if I don’t know. And that, I think, is all that matters.

sometimes you’re not enough

Sometimes you love someone– and all you receive is their pity.

Sometimes you waste your life for someone– and they resent you for it.

Sometimes you say, “I’ve always been there for you.”– and they say,”That’s the problem.”

Sometimes you adore them– and they are creeped out.

Sometimes you craft the most perfect love letter– and they never read it.

Sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes, you’re not enough.

And, sometimes, that’s just how it is. And it’s not always pleasant, but it’s okay. Because someone else will find you more than enough. And you’ll realize you’re always enough for you.

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

why someone doesn’t accept your kind words [or actions]

I saw a piece about someone who said something nice— and another someone responded with unkind words, and this made yet another person upset.

“(S)he just said something nice.  Can’t you just accept that and move on?” 

After all, they have a point. Being nice is…nice. I wish society could be nicer. Jimmy Stewart once said, “You can be oh so clever or oh so pleasant. For years, I was clever. I prefer pleasant.” I love intelligence, of any sort– but it’s a breath of fresh air to encounter a truly nice person. 

I value “niceness,” I do. But, sometimes, okay, quite a lot of the time, I am tired of “niceness.” “Nice” girls smile and nod pleasantly. They don’t say that their mothers were abusive or that their stepfathers molested them. That is not the sort of thing nice girls say. Nice girls say, “All mothers are wonderful!” 

“Nice” is okay, but it is somewhat lacking in depth.

I should have sided with the person who said the celebrity in question said something nice. I didn’t do that. I took the side of the person who said the “mean” statement.

Which throws some people off. You are so sweet, people say. Nobody expects me to be mean. Truthfully, I am sweet. Most of the time. I am terrible with conflict, traditionally. I don’t do “mean” well. I like being nice and pleasant and warm like butter and snickerdoodles and . 

I am mostly sugar and not spice– but I do have a dash of nutmeg. 

Let me share a story: My youngest munchkin said I could marry anyone I like, but they had to be nice, nice, kind, kind and helpful.   Yes, I deliberately repeated the first two traits.  Because she did. I have every intention, too, to marry someone nice and kind. She likes everyone to be nice and happy around her. As do I. It’s funny, though, because for such a little person, she has uttered some very cruel words.

…because a couple of things, to start.

1.  Sometimes being nice isn’t a reasonable response.

That nice comment I responded to in a “mean” fashion WAS nice. But, you see, the last twenty actions/words spoken by that person were petty, vindictive, harmful, or in some other way purely awful.  Words are beautiful, but hollow words ring empty. And the past doesn’t get erased, because you suddenly decide to say ONE NICE THING.

I don’t believe people are lost causes ninety nine percent of the time. A few, a very small few, are so broken there is no helping them. I met one, not too long ago. Someone who got blackout drunk whenever I saw her. She threw herself at me when drunk, to the point that I had to eventually cut off the friendship entirely. She later claimed my partner assaulted her, though they were never alone together. Some people cannot be saved. 

Yes, I believe in forgiveness.  But it takes more than one apology or one positive statement. Because–

2.  Being nice, when it’s based on ignorance, isn’t much to me.

You know that person who is “nice” because they won’t say a potentially hurtful opinion? Niceness does not have to equivocate to shallowness. I am not always “nice” in my writings, although I know I could be more popular if I catered to everyone and made sure I never said anything controversial. 

But I’d also get bored. I don’t think you necessarily have to be vivicious, but the world isn’t always nice. Sometimes it requires a sharp mind and an equally sharp tongue. 

3. Loving words are not enough.  Kind words are not enough.  Kind actions do matter.

True empathy and kindness is more than words, though words are, well, nice. Moreover, it is consistent. You have to be good to everyone, not just to the people you think are worth kindness and love. You can slip up, but overall?

You have to be kind to the people that need it, even if you get no recognition for it. No social media brownie points. I appreciate when anyone tries to say something good, in my opinion, the “right” thing.  

4. Niceness, when only shown when people are looking, isn’t quite the same. 

The other day, you shared an article about abused kids in cages. I absolutely and wholeheartedly agree with you.  These children need help. Some may say it’s “politicizing” the issue to talk about it. But I believe it’s not right to dust this under the carpet and pretend it’s not happening. 

Except I also saw you screaming at your own child about how they are stupid and unreliable and how they will never be better. Nobody was around to see it, well, nobody you cared about. Now I think those posts you share on social media aren’t about the children at all, but about yourself. Because if you care about children only when someone sees you, do you really care about them? I may have misjudged you, but this is how I feel.

So, yes, I appreciate your kind words or your productive actions.

But that doesn’t mean I trust you. There’s this person in my life who, from time to time, is nice to me. And I’d love to embrace that. But I know what will happen. I’ve seen it. I never know when the niceness will stop and it will go back to what it always used to be (or worse!)

I will never trust them again. No matter how nice they are to me.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

fake relationships are actually quite satisfying

I think I want fake relationships.

I mean, I don’t know. But every time I hear about a “real” relationship, teensy little shivers flee up and down my spine. A “real” mom? A “real” parent? A “real” love of my life?

No, thank you. If you need a “real” relationship, I’m likely not for you.

Real relationships are neat and tidy.

I think I rather like “messy relationships.” Real relationships have plenty of rules to make everything perfect. Which I’m not sure is a great plan. Although, for what it’s worth, I manage to have a decent sense of what the future holds. Even without bothering with a lot of rules or labels. Crazy, I know.

Real relationships have super terrifying emotional feelings.

Well, who doesn’t want to be terrified all the time? Sounds great.

Real relationships mean you are never lonely.

Ah, yes, my friends in real relationships with labels and societally approved contracts are never, ever lonely. Slapping a label on the relationship improves any relationship. Actually, that sounds pretty good. Maybe sign me up after all?

Or maybe not.

I don’t need a “real” relationship, because I’ve already got something better.

I value my relationships, regardless of their “validity.” My relationship with my unmarried partner. The children to whom I have no legal ties. The persons in my life that I share no labels with, but I do share my time and emotional burdens (as they share with me). My “just” friends that would do anything for me. But, yes, it’s true I don’t have a “real” relationship by certain standards.

It’s funny, but when I look around at “real” relationships that have imploded and caused insane amounts of heartache and pain, I’m not seeing much of an impulse to go that route. When a stranger, out of the blue, tells me that she’ll never get married again– what, again, is pushing me to take that path?

So, yes, I’m good with fake relationships. Or what many others would call fake relationships.

Because they seem pretty real to me.

Photo by Moose Photos from Pexels

stay single until— an analysis & an observation

“Until it feels easy.”

My heart wants people to be able to express thoughts that make them happy, but my brain sighs, “Until WHAT feels easy?”**

It’s nice to say, “Being single is fun and easy!”— and certainly I do think being single is underrated. …but it isn’t always easy.  

Truth is, it’s tough to become ourselves, to become someone another would wish to partner their life, all on our own. Without someone to check in, once in a while. I’s easier to discover our love languages, when someone is speaking to us in them. “Oh, I guess I did need kind words, after all.”  It’s easier to understand what it means to be treated right, after we’re treated wrong..and then eventually we find that person who does treat us right. Again and again and again.

Perhaps you can find out how to become yourself and be that most amazing person, all on your own, before finding your first Love.

Perhaps you are that 24/7, confident, hair whipping woman in the powersuit, breastfeeding whilst commanding a conference call via her bluetooth earbud? Or whatever. Who, after perfecting herself, than goes on to easily find the Love of her life. (Yes, cough, that is exactly what my friends in their forties, having established themselves professionally and understanding themselves intimately, frequent tell me about their subsequent love lives.)

Oh, I’m not saying it’s too late for you, if you have not found it. I am saying that if you want it, stop waiting! Because it’s never easy. No matter how secure, amazing, accomplished, and beautiful you may be. Finding love is always hard and it takes time. I am honestly not sure that woman with the flippant ponytail on her conference call, baby in arm (oh, yes, she doesn’t need a partner to have a baby, she can do it all on her own!) exists. But I surely know finding love for her is as difficult as it is for the rest of us.

“I don’t know that kind of woman sounds amazing! Much more amazing than I am. I’m sure I could…if I just adjusted a few things…maybe worked a second job…I could be better than–“

Yes, and she’s also exhausted. Is that what you want?

  • It’s nice to have someone who can run to CVS and grab a bottle of conditioner because you forget to get any. You’re not stuck in the apartment.  Or running out, feeling  gross and unwashed.
  • It’s nice to have someone to help with the laundry.
  • It’s nice to never have to worry about who you’re going to dinner with that evening.

And we don’t have to wait to be good enough for someone to do these things with and for us.

Life isn’t easy.  Partnered or not.  Waiting for life to be easy WHILE you’re alone?  Even the gods and goddesses needed love and companionship. Should we ask less for ourselves as mere mortals?

We’re good enough, now, to ask for help. We’re good enough today to start building those relationships that will get us through the good days and the bad– and the absolutely horrible. Someone to enjoy the fantastic days, too.

“But I don’t want to push myself to be with someone who isn’t right.”

Don’t do that!  I mean it.  Trapped in a loveless or abusive relationship is worse than being alone….truly. Don’t crash into marriage or have kids without thinking.  At least don’t try to do that (life is messy, it doesn’t always work to plan).  At the same time…

Do you have to do everything alone?

Please, understand that most of us need that supportive partner by our side. Whether comprised of one (aside from ourselves) or many, our support network is often our well being. If you want to figure life out on your own, that is okay. There’s nothing wrong with being single, if that’s what you choose for yourself. But make no mistake. It is not the easy choice.

Very few of us don’t need that help. And it doesn’t just come out of nowhere. If you’re waiting for yourself to be “ready” and achieve your own self nirvana, like when Sally from Coupling tells her friends that she’ll introduce her new boyfriend “when he’s finished,” well–

“Can I tell you a secret? Love isn’t always something you’re ready for.  Sometimes you just gotta figure it out as you go.  Sometimes you only know after you’ve met the person(s) right for you.

I am perhaps lucky, but I found someone to grow with, mutually.  Someone I could play with love and romance— and yes, I could have been hurt, but being vulnerable allowed me to find any love at all. But I wasn’t ready for it; in fact, I’d made a rash promise to myself to never date again, because dating was hopeless. And, instead of dating, I just…opened myself up to finding someone who could help me in life.

Someone in my family told me I seemed like I’d found myself when I met my first partner.  I’d dated before, sure, but nobody that was anything like this. My partner pointed out that I’d stumbled into him at twenty-five, about when people come into their own anyway.  Which is true.

At any rate, I wasn’t “complete” when I met him. I was…close. But I didn’t know who I was, nor who I could become. I wasn’t secure in myself, nor did I have a promising career. I was nobody’s 30 Under 30. In fact, I was seeking jobs on Craiglist at the time. Yeah, I was definitely “ready” to meet someone.

But it didn’t matter that I couldn’t figure out a regular meal plan or answer the question, “What do you want?” with a practiced flourish. Not to the friends who stuck by me, through thick and thin. And certainly not to him.

I don’t know how much was me.  After I met him. After I got his support and influence. It’s not like I twiddled my thumbs before him, I had gotten started on my path of self exploration.

Nonethless it was during those first five years we were together that I really discovered me.I do know that it sure felt nice to have someone by my side during what ended up being a difficult part of my life. I think that is why we are so close today. We “finished,” to speak, together. Helping each other through each other’s formative, and oftentimes rather rough, years.

And if you decide you don’t wish a Love and you want to be truly independent and living on your own? Please don’t forget that you may be “single,” but that doesn’t mean you need to be alone.

I am glad for you if you can do it alone. On the other hand, it’s okay if you need help to get “there.”  It’s not a weakness.  Don’t be scared of someone seeing you before you’re ready for them.

By the way, if by “single” you mean “unmarried”? Great. Be “single” if that means you don’t have a nesting partner (though if your partner doesn’t live with you, again, that can make one’s life more difficult.) If you mean “single” as “independent, childless, wandering soul,” great.  If you mean “single” as “does not desire any most important romantic relationship,” good on you for knowing that this is what you want.  (Because God knows, hardly anyone will tell you seeking NO romantic love is the right path).

But to be truly on our own, even if fulfilling for our sense of self, can be a lonely path. FInd that best friend (or friends). Find that person, or persons, who you can count on absolutely and with perfect confidence. Because they are there for you, always. And it can start with something very small, something that feels like it’s not very much at all. And then, without warning, somehow they are more than you ever imagined– and you might not even be ready for them when they become that person to you!

I don’t know what my life would have been, if I’d done it all, “on my own.” I can’t ever know. But something told me, while I’m grateful I waited to make a true commitment, I’m glad I allowed another to be part of my journey of self discovery.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I don’t know. All I know is I was grateful to have him to bounce ideas off, as I figured out everything described in that pretty little poem. As understanding myself felt as easy and natural as breathing. “Easy, simple, like breathing.” I could have been single, or not, at that point– and I would have been okay.

I’m grateful to each and every person who took a chance on the unformed me. Because I needed their help to become me; I wouldn’t be me, I don’t think, without them. What is “me” anyway? Besides, the truth is that I don’t think I’m “finished” yet. I don’t think I’ll ever be.

But whatever I become, and however I evolve, I know I won’t be alone.

And I’m very, very happy about that.

Sometimes that’s the only way forward.  

____________________________________________________________

A final note..

Perhaps you don’t have that Love in your life.  Or you don’t even want one.  That’s fine.  What about a best friend?  A partner in crime?  Someone you trust above all others? Having a girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever is awesome for, I would say most of us.  But it’s not everything.  Don’t make it be, if it’s not what you want.

**I’m ignoring some of the more toxic bs in the quote, like, expecting a real love to know what you want without actually voicing what you want…just addressing the sentiment of the meme

***and anyone else who needs to hear this, regardless of gender

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“this seems like an exciting time for you” and other awesome alternatives to “that sounds complicated”

“Your life is complicated.”

I wasn’t telling my friend about a problem or a headache.  Just a simple recounting of latest happenings.  The response?  “Sounds complicated.”

If you don’t get why this is not the best thing to say, I can explain to you personally.  That isn’t my focus here.

But I’m not a jerk.

If I don’t want someone to say a certain thing, I should offer an alternative, right?

After all my life IS complicated.  I travel like crazy, I maintain relationships all across the world.  I have unusual relationships, such as with my munchkins, that most people would say are doomed to fail and yet which fulfill me beyond measure.  That’s not what irritates me.

It’s that all of our lives are complicated in some manner.  Complications beget a fascinating complex existence.  Yes, I have a lot going on.  I have a generous, resourceful, loving support network.  But so do most people, and do you go around telling everyone how complicated their lives are?  If you do, please stop it.

I have never had someone tell me “Sounds complicated” when they were speaking positively about my crazy, awesome life.

Instead they appeared to be trying desperately to find something negative to bring me down to their own existence.  I’m sorry your life isn’t as exciting as you want?  If you want me to help you manage your life a little better, I’ll do so gladly.  You don’t need to passive aggresively insult mine.

Anyway.  The next time you’re tempted to tell someone their life is “complicated,” try replacing it with this:

“This seems like a really exciting time for you.”

Someone told me this recently, as I chatted with them in one of our semi regular phone conversations.  I know that the other person probably hasn’t experienced most, if any, of what makes up my life. Didn’t really come up.

The point isn’t what they know or don’t know. What matters is those words made me feel good, unlike being told, “Wow, I couldn’t handle that.” Or “Sounds complicated.” Or “Are you okay?” Ugh. I didn’t even know that was what I wanted to hear, but when I heard it I smiled.

Being told that my life is exciting, instead of complicated? Made me feel warm inside. I heard, “It’s possible that I don’t understand you, but I am so happy you are living your life.” I didn’t feel weird or different. I hadn’t been told how I was “special” or “brave,” either. Which is great.  I just want to be able to share what’s happening to me, like anyone else.

I can’t guarantee that everyone will react the same, but at least you’ve tried.

Because life isn’t a template.   Maybe they’ll still get mad.  Please just don’t use my words as an unthinking, default reponse.

Use your own, hopefully genuine, compliment. “Wow, that is really cool that you are living the life that YOU want, not what other people tell you.” Or “I haven’t experienced that, but I would love you to tell me more about it.”

Please just do not say, “I couldn’t do that.” Nobody cares that you aren’t able to do it. Or worse, “How do your kids handle [your living your life]?” No. Just no.  Trust me, no parent will appreciate that judgement.  Maybe once you talk to them longer, once they have more trust in you, ask, “I have kids and I wouldn’t know how to tell them about [insert life choice]. Can you give me advice?”

What would YOU like to hear in response to telling a friend about your perhaps slightly crazy life?

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what the company we keeps says about us

I don’t always trust my instincts.

I want to like everyone.  I’m easily manipulated. I’m less gullible than I used to be, but when I first meet you I want to think the best.  Even as you inappropriately lean into me and grope me, a part of me wants to think, “Maybe you were just drunk.” …but, you know, that’s still not okay.  Ask before you touch.

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when they fall in love with you

“It’s one thing to fall in love. It’s another to feel someone else fall in love with you, and to feel a responsibility toward that love.”

Every Day by David Levithan

Falling in love is easy. 

Love is beautiful, fascinating, captivating.  It’s everything of which one could dream.  Falling in love takes no courage, no effort, no skill.  Like falling into a lake.  Mayhap one is splashed in the face with cold, dirty water.  

…but nobody in the history of time said love had no consequences.

Someday, when you’ve fallen in love with that person, you’ll find— they fall in love with you, too.  Suddenly, the stakes are real.  I’ve felt that moment, more than once, when it’s not just me, playing with my own heart— but me playing with theirs.  That moment of vulnerability, the moment you justify that vulnerability by accepting their love.  

It’s no small matter. Could I leave?  Physically, yes.  Mentally, I’m abandoning them.  They put their trust in me, their everything— and I just leave them like none of it meant anything?  

That love has a weight to it.  I can feel it.  Some might call it a burden.  I don’t believe it is that, but it does feel like a heaviness that takes up a part of my heart.  Fills it that little bit more.  Takes up a piece of me that is now theirs, and I cannot give it to anyone else.  

Somedays I’m scared and want to run away.  Other days I’m grateful. 

I am sure I could leave, but I cannot imagine the amount of effort it would take to get me to leave my loved ones (and people have tried to scare me away, and it hasn’t worked, so don’t you even try, because the last person who did was far more terrifying than you will ever be).

That daily responsibility to the one you love is no light task.  It will drain you, some days, in ways that make you feel you have nothing left to give— and then you’ll squeeze blood from a stone to give them what they need to survive.  Knowing they will pour their blood and sweat back into you, not as their way of saying thanks, but because they feel the same weight and obligation towards you.  Giving to you even on days they might resent and hate you.  On days they feel tired and irritated.  

On days they are happy, bursting with joy?  You will get so much love that you float into the sky, idly musing if you’ll ever be heavy enough to fall back to earth.  But you don’t care.  Your body is an angel’s.  Angels don’t bother with worries of what country their body ends up in.   

Some days you’ll remember both the highs and the lows, and that will help keep you steady.  Knowing that you can do this, the next day and the next.  That you are all in this together.  The grass may be greener on the other side, but you are too preoccupied with your own lawn to pay much attention to the neighbor’s grass.  They probably have grass, but you haven’t looked lately.  Maybe it’s a desert landscape.

That is what this kind of love means.

I don’t give away my whole heart.  Metaphors are silly that way.  Flexible in intepretation. My “heart” is something that I give away in pieces. I reserve a small part of it for myself, alone.  But the rest? I freely give. It’s up to the person, of course, to receive that gift. 

That is what I mean by love.  That is what I mean by commitment.  When you have that place in my heart, it is yours. It’s nobody else’s.

It is my heart, though, and it is precious.  I won’t let it be abused or neglected.  This is the only time I would say, take it back.  Take back that piece of your heart.  If someone abuses or neglects your heart, that is self preservation. Take it back— give it love and care to heal the cuts and bruises— make it well for the next person to whom you entrust your most precious possession. 

Whether it’s your romantic others, your little ones, your friends, the stranger who drops you isolated bits of random kindness.  That shared love is worth everything. Yes, even the stranger’s. Silly, but few kinds of love seem to mean quite what a stranger’s love does.  A brief look, a few words that you didn’t know you needed to hear.

Love freely, love deeply— and when you are loved in return, don’t worry if your reaction is fear or stress or panic.  Because being loved is the hardest thing in the world.  

But you can handle it!