I have finally remembered that I am a loving being.
It's taken me almost 40 years to finally fall in love and I had to start with myself.
I was not keen on love or sweetness for most of my life which is odd to admit but it's true.
I had some screwed up ideas on love, strength and who I am or was for a very long time.
I used to think that being strong meant I needed to be the loudest girl in the room, the girl who could drink everyone else under the table, the girl who could shrug her shoulders and say
"I'm a fucking mess, nobody loves me and I don't care"!
I used to think being strong meant I should chain smoke Marlboro Reds, wear baggy clothes and never brush my hair.
I thought being strong meant being aggressive and hot tempered.
I thought all these things without understanding how oppressive and confining this belief was.
I spat on love.
I thought romance was for the disillusioned and holding hands was for the needy.
Hugs and kisses?
Forget it...that was for weaklings.
That stuff was for people who had lived easy lives.
People who had lived lives void of violence, mental illness and loss which wasn't my story.
My story was peppered with sexual harassment and assault.
My story was full of death and anger and I wasn't going to let my guard down.
I thought my strength, my toughness was in my victimhood and a fiery badge of 'keep your distance' that I had etched into my flesh as a tattoo.
In my mind, I was only strong if I came across as wild, stern and without regret.
But, I was wrong.
Being an asshole seems easy but it's actually very exhausting.
The constant need to compare myself to others, to find ways to be angry at everyone else...always putting up walls and being unapproachable is draining.
It's a lonely way to survive and it only intensifies when you've become comfortable with not asking for help or understanding.
But now I am older and perhaps like a criminal who graduates out of crime...
I finally got tired of putting on an act all the time because the tender part of my heart never died..it just got quiet and shy until it couldn't contain itself anymore.
The arrival of my son, Atticus woke up that little girl in me who knew how to smile and love everyone.
His need to be loved appeared like waves that constantly crash into the walls of a cliff...the impermanent nature of even the hardest and most reinforced hearts began to weaken and my defenses started to crumble into the sea.
I know it's a cliche to say that motherhood changes you but it does.
I thought I had properly prepared for the storm of this persons arrival.
But...I was wrong.
I thought I could love him without loving myself but it was impossible so here I am learning to love.
40 years is a long time to learn but when you've become used to self hate it was difficult to see the train wreck of me as anything salvageable but somehow...
My heart has grown bigger.
It's made space for me but it's taken time.
It didn't just happen and I didn't do it alone.
It took seeing my child adopting my habits of self loathing and meeting a man who wanted so desperately to love me that he called me out on my shit to wake me up and understand that I was going through the motions of love but still putting my heart in a place that was unreachable.
Have you ever had someone angry with you for not loving yourself?
It walloped my brain in ways I could not expect so I've been working on it.
It's become my strength to be vulnerable and to be patient.
It's a challenge for me to not take the bait of being a raging jerk whenever I feel insecure.
My long held mental habits still jump up and down and say "don't forget me, be mad, be angry" but love is a practice.
My heart, it is a muscle and if I don't exercise it regularly, daily, every freaking minute then I know what happens:
I suffer emotional atrophy and the first person I stop loving is me.
So...learning to be open to happiness, love and joy means being able to pull myself up with a heart that quakes and say loudly, "let's be kind, let's smile until we mean it.
If there is pain it's just a reminder of a heart that's open to loving, to being hurt and having the courage to do it anyway".
I love being in love.