Someone interviewed me last week. Just about the story of my life. I told it, as well as I could in 1.5 hours. Afterwards I felt a bit exhausted. And a bit sad. And then a bit like, I DO NOT want to be that person with the sad love story.
The story isn’t published yet. I think it will be ready soon, and this isn’t about telling the story first. This is the story about the story.
If you heard my story, like the journalist did, the version I told her with all the bits I shared, I think you too would ask like she did “but after all that why do you still believe in love?” And so I answered her. I think I did. I know I still believe in love. It just isn’t the way I thought it would be. It’s inside out.
But it made me think about whether or not I am the person with the sad love story or if I get a chance to have a magnificent story because of what I learnt? Those things (the things I learnt) are not replicable without standing on the inside of the story and feeling everything I felt. And the lessons were not so clear on the inside, feeling what I felt, but from the outside shone like gold. Inside out. Like I said.
Here are 11 things love taught me so far:
1. Never forget who you are. Don’t get so caught up in who the other person is, or who you are together to forget who you are as yourself. Losing someone from your life is hard, but when they are gone and you yourself are lost, that is harder.
2. Do your inner work. It’s an inside job first. Some people don’t have that experience, but it is mine., and the more I work with people and their insides, the more I trust this to be true. Know what you want. Know why and what that’s all about for you and don’t compromise on that. Whole people attract whole people. People with holes attract people with holes.
3. Be kind. Be honest. Be true. Even if it hurts the other person. Listen to them when they tell you they can’t do or be what you deserve. They may not use those words but they may show you everyday. Or they may use the actual words and you may not want to believe it. Listen, with every part of your being to the truth, and then do what you need to do. Kindly, honestly and truly.
4. Give it everything. Even if it scares you. Even if you’re not sure they’ll give everything back. Once you’ve given it everything you know in your heart that it’s not working because you were half-assed about it. Don’t be half-assed about it. What would be the point? There’s only one way to have an amazing, passionate love story. Give amazing, passionate love. Give it everything.
5. Let go. All the time. Of what you expected. Of how you thought it should be. Of how other people’s relationships are. Of past hurts. Of the need to be right. Of thinking it was meant to be perfect. And then just allow it to be what it is. Sometimes it’s not what you thought, but it’s still precious.
6. Children are brave and resilient. Sometimes even more so than the grown-ups. In those moments where you are not cool and brave, your children will know how to be. Not because it’s their job, but just because. If you are clear and open and true with them, they will be OK. Staying in something that is not working for your children is not the answer; it only works if you stay for you and the other person and them. But you first. Even if it doesn’t turn out like you hoped, your children will be OK, as long as they know where home is and how that is with you.
7. Take time to heal if it doesn’t work out. Don’t get distracted with the next good thing before you’ve had a chance to complete all the bits and pieces that needed to be completed to cleanly and finally finish something. Unresolved hurt will come back and bite you. Lessons not learnt will come back and buckle you. Again. Logistical things and paperwork uncompleted with haunt you and make complicated ongoing connections that steal your light. It can be a slow process, but don’t get impatient. Trust that when the healing is done you will forget that it seemed to take a long time. Bring the focus back in to you and step by step gather what you need to show up in the way you want to find the kind of person who is meant to walk beside you.
8. It’s really perfectly OK to know what you want and to clear about that. In fact, it’s the only thing that works. Not being clear about what you want will get you…well not the thing you want. It might by default feel like you have you what you want, but if you haven’t been clear, how can it be so?
9. If you want to get married you’ll need to be with someone who wants to get married too. Who is into long-term commitment and riding out the storms and what it means to make a promise to love someone even when they fuck up and even when they’re amazing. You cannot convince someone to want to do this if it’s not his or her thing. It will hurt your soul. They are either coming or not. Don’t be scared if they’re not, don’t bury it, face it and find a way to open up to the other possibilities. Like someone who will.
10. Don’t make the reason it didn’t work all about the other person. This steals your power to change how it is for you. They might suck. They might be an asshole. But some part of you loved them, and they may be the other parent to your children, and it wastes too much energy living in blame and anger. It’s OK to be angry sometimes. I do believe it is OK to call them names on occasion in your head or to your dearest trusted friends. But not to them. Ever. Or in front of your children. Ever. It serves no purpose, and to be honest can make you appear bitter and twisted. In truth, the reason it didn’t work out was a multitude of things that piece by piece unravelled something that wasn’t actually what you had it set up to be (the forever love story, the happily married ever after, the growing old together, the family). It’s not that. If it was that, it would be that, but because of the fact that it ended, it came to serve another purpose. What is the other purpose? What did you learn? (And you can’t just say something generic here like “I learnt men are predictable assholes” – you didn’t learn that. You believed that before and got proved correct again. Damn)
11. Notice where love exists in your life. The full range of it. Don’t be fooled into thinking that one person or one source of love could make everything all right. When you are open, there is this connection to all those people who love you, and it takes the pressure of the other person to be the source. I know it’s the lame “love yourself” thing too, but it’s true. Love yourself enough to know that many people love you, and even when you have found something special with someone special, don’t forget the other sources of love. On the outside of an intimate relationship, in the land of the single people, sometimes (most times) we are better at connecting with all those people in our lives who love us. Do that from within the relationship, and you will have more love, an abundance of love. It loops right back to number 1 really. Never forget who you are.
And one day, someone will appear at your door with three paintings of the journey, the day before you write the story about the story. And your faith will bloom just a little bit larger.