I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about love. It began, as most of these conversations do, about love from others and what we allow into our lives. That sometimes love looks beautiful and sometimes, well, it doesn't. But when it shows up, there is always something in it for you. And most likely, it is not what you are expecting.
When I think about the love I have had in my life, I first see how my story started. The one that was written for me...even before I was born. The one that had really good intentions, as all marriages do when they first start out, but ends up being replaced by infidelity and new families, abandonment and sexism. The kind that makes you think, at that age, that maybe this is just what love looks like. Because this is what you know. This is all you know. Maybe this is just what a relationship looks like.
When I think about my story of love, I am eight. I see Erik, my neighbor's babysitter chasing me and my friend around her house. If he catches us, he sits on top of us and unzips his pants. If we touch him, he will give us a nickel.
When I think about my story of love, I am 12. I am sitting on a washing machine in the basement of a relative's house. My 19 year old half cousin has his hand on my bare leg, rubbing it while trying to kiss me.
When I think about my story of love I am 16, I see my high school love. He is different from what I have learned about love so far. He is beautiful and for a brief moment, I see completely healthy love.
When I think about my story of love, I am 20. I am not eating or when I do, I am throwing it up. Because in order to get love, this is what I need to do. This is what I need to look like. I am buying into what society says is beautiful. I am letting it run a narrative in my life that I do not own. I shrink my voice because I want to be accepted. I want to feel love. Really, I just want to feel anything.
When I think about my story of love, I am in my mid-twenties. I feel married men wanting me. I feel unhealthy love calling me. I am no where to be found in this world. I am not seen the way my inner voice wants me to be seen. The way my soul needs to be seen. I am only seen for what I can give, not for what I am. But I am silent and I give.
When I think about love, I am married and for another brief moment, there is light. And I see love come in many forms. I feel, for the first time, complete unconditional love in the form of babies. The kind of perfect love that asks everything from you. I am happy to step up. Happy to be really needed in a way I can show up. Completely and fully. I am in it for the long haul with these little ones.
When I think about love, I am going through a divorce ten years later. My husband's inner darkness was too much for him. Too much for me. I am on my kitchen floor while my children sleep. I am crying. I am sobbing. Big, deep and heavy. They come out of nowhere and seem to just last for days. And although it hurts...it feels so good to feel.
When I think about love, I am almost 40. A strong force enters my life. It feels like love, but it is not. It is controlling and strong and constricting. It is violent and unshakable and possessive. I try and push it away, but it ends up in my house, uninvited. It shows up in places it shouldn't. It leaves threatening notes for me to find in areas that I should feel safe in. I am being constantly followed by it. I am being consistently harassed by it. It never goes away, but in my mind I am leaving it behind.
When I think about love, I am in my mid-40's. Something shifts. I take my power back because I have learned that in order to protect myself from the darkness. I must. If I don't, I will get stuck and I don't want this to be my story. This is now all about survival.
With this strength, I dig deeper than ever before. I make two realizations. 1) I am so much more powerful than my past and 2) the love that I am craving...the love I have been craving since before I was born...is already within me. True, healthy, fierce love. Love that is so bright it comes out in every breath I take. Love that is so strong that nothing can pierce it. Love, that is solely dependent on what I want to actively create and allow into my life. Where once I questioned my worthiness in love, my standards are now whether someone wanting in is worthy of me.
I lean into the discomfort of how incredibly foreign this feels. I relish in the beauty of what I am becoming...what I am.
I am love. And I am rewriting my story.