How self-preservation nearly destroyed my life

A divorced mother of two, I was just another statistic. A foolish girl who had hoped her youthful romance would last, that two people could grow up together, embracing lineal change simultaneously. How did I get things so wrong?

When it all started, I was a hopeless romantic and full of grand gestures as well as simple reminders of my feelings. I was mushy, sensitive and gave my heart freely.

Slowly I realized that we were not headed in the same direction. Naively I thought I could love him into submission, that he would model after my choices when he saw how beneficial they were. But he didn’t.

Ten years later my once soft, pliable, oozing heart had been turned hard and cold. Trust was only given to those who earned it over time and the hopeless romantic vanished, replaced by a cynic.

Self-preservation nearly destroyed me

Hope and resentment waged a war within me. Disappointment and hurt eroded the hope little by little until all that was left was bitter resentment. When the war was over and the casualties were counted, I had been broken in a million different ways. I had been decimated.

Self-preservation, protection, and self-reliance are how I rebuilt myself. I constructed a maze, a formidable labyrinth so that only the shallowest version of myself could be seen by the public. This detachment from others gave me comfort. It also helped me run from my feelings, kept me just numb enough that I did not have to sit with the pain.

This kept me from any real connection with others and I was fine with that until I wasn’t.

One late evening driving home from work the guy I had been spending a lot of time with asked if I would like to be his girlfriend.  I panicked, I mean my insides quaked, my mind circling like a flushing toilet and I was stuttering.  What I finally managed to spit out was, “Why do we need to label this?”  Yes, I said that. It was stupid and I’m sure it was hurtful.

The problem was twofold. Problem one, I really liked him which scared me to death. That meant taking a chance, opening myself up to someone, guiding him through the maze and letting him see the deeper side of me. Problem two, he was a great guy with a kind heart. This relationship could actualize into something real, long-term.

Somehow, he ended the call graciously. I thought for sure he had given up on me and I was beside myself for being such a stupid coward. I spent the next few days and weeks thinking and facing my feelings. Sitting with the pain, embarrassment, agony of rejection, fear of beginning again, grieving for what was lost. Eventually, all that lead to acceptance. The emotions washed over me in waves and not all of them could be resolved now. Some of the hurt would take years and outside help to overcome, but I was ready to begin moving forward.

Then I took a leap. I went to him and asked for another chance. I served myself up on a platter of hope even in the face of possible rejection. He did give me another chance and in a few weeks’ time, we were officially dating.

Four years later we were married and he has been my Prince Charming. He swept me off my feet by loving me for who I was in that exact moment, broken and dismantled. He continues our happily ever after by loving me as I grow and I him as he too changes. Our relationship reminds me of a tree with one trunk and two strong branches that grow encircling each other. It’s beautiful to love someone just as they are, in every season of life.

This perfect, once in a lifetime love, I almost missed because I was busy protecting myself, insulating my life from the possibility of pain. Missing out on this life that I have now, that would have been the most painful experience I would never have realized I walked away from. Taking that chance was the first step toward creating our wonderful life together.

As the seasons of my life change, have I thrown caution to the wind, removed the hurdles to my heart? Yes and no. Trust still builds slowly and cautiously, but those willing to cultivate a relationship with me see my silly, messy, happy, and anguished sides along with all my other crazy. And in return, my friends are encapsulated with my unyielding loyalty and unconditional love.

My life has taught me that I can do this alone and I have, but I just choose not to anymore. Instead, I choose connection and love and all the heartache, meaning, and fulfillment that comes along with those things.

What will you choose?

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