Today started off like any other day: I woke up, had breakfast, jammed to some music and stared at the growing pile of laundry in my closet. I hadn’t washed my sheets and clothes for a solid two weeks and today felt like the perfect day. The sun was out and I finally felt like myself again after two days of laying in bed. The same bed where I had two lovers share in intimacy, still rolling around in the scents and liquids of our bodies.
As my clothes were drying, I sat on the bench outside, soaking in the warm Californian sun rays and feeling the cool breeze send shivers down my spine. I took off my headphones and placed them aside: music felt like it was annoying me. I wanted to be present and feel this moment perfectly. My mind wandered and drifted off on some thought when a voice sounded next to me: “Excuse me, miss.”
I turned. It was a guy around my age. I learned that he just moved here and asked if I wanted to grab a drink or dinner some time. I felt amused that he used that word. I haven’t heard anyone my age refer to each other as ‘miss’ or ‘mister’ before. It felt so formal. He seemed nice enough and I’m always up for meeting new people, so we traded numbers and I accepted. I thought about the organic meet cute, which gave the inner romantic in me pleasure. Dating apps are fun but I find the process of meeting someone in person so much more satisfying and spontaneous. I don’t drink, go to bars and rarely go out to social outings after settling here in SoCal, so meeting people is rare. The laundromat of all places: seems like something out of an old school story.
As I relished in the excitement of a date (re: casual hangout), I watched these intrusive thoughts enter my head. Inklings of things like: I’m not worthy to date someone. I’m a bad person, people should avoid me. I’m no good for you. I’m better off alone. They started to trickle in. Historically, I would allow them to spiral and generate a ball of anxiety wrapped up in depression, cancel all my plans and spend another evening ruminating on my unworthiness. Rinse and repeat.
I’m more aware of them now and able to process them differently. Maybe I’m perceptive. Or maybe I’m just a good storyteller and I make sense and create meaning for things that may not have an answer. But I think of where these thoughts come from and recognize that they are not exactly mine. They reside in my head and the voice sounds like mine. But, instead, they are learned projections of my mother’s pain, of her hurt, of someone else’s trauma.
I learned that there was nowhere for it to go. Nowhere for them to be. And I think gently: no one told her of her worth. No one showed her that the fears were not hers. That she, too, was worthy and deserving of happiness, love and joy. She built herself up and showed up the best she knew how. And I watched her relationship with my father: the explosive arguments, the dismissal and putting down of each other, the physical escalations. This was what was modeled to me, growing up. This is what I believed love to be.
When you’re a child, you have this idealization and expectation that your parents are infallible. That they are and should be perfect. Growing up, I am learning that they are just as human as I am: messy, imperfect, growing, trying to figure this life thing out. They were around my age when they first had me. I think about what if I had a child now. I would be so unprepared. I wouldn’t know the first thing about anything. I think of all the times I had been so hard on my parents, so critical and expectant. I cringe thinking back on those memories but feeling grateful that these lessons have taught me a lot about grace.
And as I’m about to embark on a new decade, a new chapter of my life, I reflect on these values. I pick and choose the parts that make sense to me. I leave the parts that hurt. I wonder how much of what I was shown, I also carry and bring with me into my relationships with others. I wonder: how can I be a better lover, friend, human? I know changes don’t happen overnight. I know it’s about showing up and integrating each lesson and habit little by little. I think of all the times I felt like I had fallen in love and wonder: did I love the person or were they showing me something about myself that I forgotten I had loved?
I think I stayed in my last relationship so long because of this rational cost benefit analysis I kept doing. I had invested so much time and energy that I decided to keep working at it. And maybe some relationships are meant to be that way. Maybe that’s what love means to some people. I still struggle with thoughts about whether or not it was the right decision (my answer is still yes). I learned a lot about myself without someone else by my side. I learned how to confront my loneliness and my emotions. I learned how not to make someone the center of my world. I learned that the other person is not supposed to be your everything. Maybe I’m still learning what works for me. I felt so focused on outcomes and goals that I lost sight of why I decided to be in union with someone else: to share your joy, your sadness, your dreams, your goals, your visions and moments in between this journey between life and death.
How do you even define love? For such a simple thing, there’s a lot of complex layers that come about it. I believe that love is embedded in the blueprint of every single thing on this earth and in this Universe. Everything came forth because of love, however whomever decided to define it. We’re all here today because two people decided they wanted to create love: a physical form of it. In this chapter of my life, I find myself wondering about marriage and children. My stance on these topics seem to shift from time to time. I wonder about the intimacy and warmth of a partnership and nurturing love together. And part of me feels inadequate, not ready and unworthy, afraid I’ll hurt them like I’ve been hurt.
Maybe you can’t protect people from being hurt. Maybe, in this existence, the duality must exist: pain & pleasure, happiness & sadness, sun & rain. Maybe you wouldn’t know one without the other.
Showing up is difficult. At times, I feel that I can go through life like an island: alone, self sufficient, happy in my own company. And at others, I feel fulfilled when I spend my time surrounded by others, listening to their stories, learning, laughing and relating. I find myself looking for the middle way: the path that brings me the most balance. The path that involves peace and serenity and passion and joy. And while I may stumble and fall some times, I trust and have faith in myself and the universe to show me the way.