What's Love Got To Do With It?

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"If you are searching for that one person that will change your life, take a look in the mirror." - Unknown

The other day I was Skyping with a friend who's current situation eerily resembles mine almost three and a half years ago. As she shared her fears and worries, I couldn't help but feel a deep sense of empathy and compassion for where she was. As she nervously confided in me about her decision to leave her marriage of two years, I wanted to wrap my arms around her and say, "It's gonna be okay. I promise. One day it will be even better then okay." 

I wanted to tell her everything I had learned over the last three and a half years about love and how sometimes loss leads you to discovering some of the most magical things about yourself and about life.

I wanted to share how a lot of the time, we think the love from someone else is enough but it isn't. What is enough however is having the courage to do what is in your heart which isn't always the easy thing.

 But I couldn't, it wasn't my place. I knew all these lessons were ones she had to come to on her own. All I could do was listen and hope that she felt my love and support from thousands of miles away. 

It got me wondering though, how many people are married or coupled up who have done so under the same false pretenses I did? The one that says the right person will come along and save you. They will love you enough so that you won't have to learn the very thing that WILL save you; loving yourself.

 I also wondered how many people were staying in relationships that resembled the very one I was in because it felt safe or because they felt it was something the should do. Those damn should's. 

I grew up believing in the fairy tale. The one that had my prince charming riding in on his Technicolor My Little Pony and rescuing me in some way, shape or form. Hey, these were my fantasies and regular horses bored the hell out of me. My Little Ponies were what my romantic dreams were made of. 

He’d trot in with his perfectly parted Ken Doll hair because what young girl doesn't adore Ken. With his sparkling blue eyes and his big, bronze muscles, which were just a little stiff if you asked me, and he'd scoop me up with his arms that barely hinged at the elbows and we’d ride off into the blazing sunset to live happily ever after in our Barbie Dream House. The one with the white picket fence, the perfect career making the perfect amount of money, the 2.5 kids, and a friggin' partridge in a pear tree.  And that wouldbe our "The End".

Fast-forward to real life and one painfully failed marriage and a handful of brutal dating scenarios with openly emotionally unavailable men and this single thirty-seven year old has finally realized that love looks a little different then what my youthful (and delusional) dreams were once so naively made of.

It's taken me a long time to admit to myself that real love isn't the stuff that Blockbusters and fairytales are made of.

It definitely isn’t a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie.

It isn’t black and white.

And absolutely, under no circumstance, can real love sweep in on a brightly colored pony and save you. 

Entering any partnership under these pretenses is bound to fail you at some point.  

But let me start from the beginning. Let me tell how I came to realize that I had it all wrong. That my idea of real love was nothing more then a deceptive idea passed down over time and adopted by a girl who just wanted a happily ever after. 

Let me tell you what love isn't

I remember waking in the early hours of a cold February morning in 2014 from another restless night sleep. A fresh layer of white snow covered the bare vines and steep rolling hills of the fifty acre farm and vineyard I had called home for the past four years. I pulled the covers up close to my chin and in the stillness of the early morning light left over from the moon, I looked to my left at the silhouette silently sleeping next to me and my chest tightened. The heaviness returned from its eight hour break and once again, I wondered how I had allowed myself to get here. 

That had become the norm. I was thirty-three and found myself in a manipulative marriage of less then two years that had become more about constantly trying to change each other then acceptance, support, encouragement and love. I found myself constantly wondering if this was really it. Was this really what love and marriage were? Deception, lies, dread and control? 

Was I really that desperate to be coupled up that I had sacrificed my own personal happiness to do so? 

What about the fairytale? What about my prince charming and my technicolor pony ride off into my rainbow color sunset? What about my happily ever after? 

I slipped out from beneath the covers, quiet as to not wake my then husband, desperate for a few more hours to myself before I had to face my very own Jackal and Hyde. I tip toed down the stairs into the bathroom on the main floor and flipped on the light. Instead of avoiding the mirror as I normally did, I stood, staring down the reflection.

I looked tired and defeated from the daily disappointment and heartache of what I had allowed my life to become. I had no idea who the women in the mirror was. I had broken a promise I made to myself a long time ago after growing up with parents who's marriage resemble the one I now found myself frantically treading water in.

"How did you let this happen? This can't be it." I whispered to the girl in the mirror. For the first time I allowed the words to bubble up and before I knew it, slip out my lips and into the hands of the very thing that could save me, my own.  

It was as if I had broken some kind of spell and I snapped out of the delusional fog I was in. I made a promise to  myself that I would do whatever I had to do to live this one precious life the way I knew, in my heart, I needed to live it. Not chasing down the love of someone else but rather figuring out what that meant on my own.

The events that transpired over the next two months were heavy and heartbreaking but perfectly laid out for me so that I had no other choice but to leave.

In mid-May, just days before what was to be my second wedding anniversary, I found my car packed with all my belongings as I drove north back home to Seattle wondering how I was ever going to put my life back together. However, in my heart I knew a life stumbling solo was far better then being coupled up in something that was abusive and neglectful and lacking any sense of what I believe to be true love

So what does love have to do with it anyway?

Not to sound incredibly cliche, but one of the greatest lessons I learned from walking away from my marriage was that love between two people just isn't enough. You have got to love yourself first. Unfortunately, I had no idea what that looked like and had a long road of hard and repetitive lessons ahead.

How we learn to love ourselves looks different for all of us but I wholeheartedly believe that until we learn to do just that, our lives are going to be full of a lot of pain and suffering because we are going to be constantly looking for that love from others.

The greatest step I ever took was finally listening to my heart and walking away from something that was safe, comfortable and familiar for the complete and utter unknown. It was in that moment I cracked a little piece of the puzzle and realized that this was the way to the truth. This was the way I was going to learn how to love myself and step into a life that felt like me. 

The moment I drove away from comfort I knew I had started a wild and crazy journey into the depths of my own heart. Something I had only ever dipped my toes in. 

I said yes to something big and scary and I have kept saying yes to things that terrify me because I know they will keep leading me to deeper parts of myself. 

So what does love have to do with it? 

Absolutely everything. 

Love with someone else may not be enough but you better believe the love you feel for yourself is. That is the answer. Until you know what that looks like it is going to be really hard to invite in the kind of love you deserve and want with someone else. 

The path isn't always paved perfectly and those bumps and challenges are usually leading you to discovering another part of yourself that needs some love. That's what all those hard, often repetitive lessons are meant to do. They are supposed to shine light on the areas that need more of your own love. 

That is where I'm at now, facing many of the same lessons over and over, slowly realizing I have the choice to love myself enough to say not again.

I'm learning to love myself by leaning into those parts of me that are unfamiliar and choosing to do things differently. I'm creating the life I want that feels like the truth even if it doesn't make sense at the time. And I'm just going to keep doing this. Day in and day out. I'm going to wake up every day and continue to make choices, easy or hard, that are based around doing what is best for my heart, my path, my journey, my life.

I'm going to continue to say goodbye to people, places and things that do not serve my heart and allow time and truth to cultivate the space for those things that do. 

So that hopefully, one day, when the right man walks into my life, I can let him love me just that way too. 

 

 

My Greatest Fear is Being Differen

Have you ever watched a flock of sheep? It wouldn't be surprised if you haven't. I just so happen to have a flock of them, 20 to be exact. They live in my back yard and day in and day out for a few moments of the day, I watch them. What I've observed, their little nuances and habits, ones that come so instinctual, an innate drive from deep within, has a bigger meaning to it. This is what I've learned.

Sheep stay together, no matter what, because it's instinctual. It's what they've always done and they know no other way. They are a prey animal, being hunted by the likes of coyotes, bobcats, and cougars or anything else that would feed on them, so naturally it is safer to stay together then to strike off on their own.

Sometimes however,  I see one of my sheep off in the far corner of the pasture, simply grazing at the grass underfoot, happy to have a moment of solitude and I wonder; why did it leave the safety of it's flock?

 Eventually, one of the other members of the flock realizes one of their own has wondered off  and starts to raise a fit, making all kinds of alarming noises, guttural, deep and often obnoxious sounds, ones that I are asking the wanderer, "what the hell are you doing? You can't go off by yourself! It's a big, bad, scary world out there and if you aren't careful, something will get you!" This usually sends the solo into it's own fit of panic and it returns to the safe keeping, under the wing of it's flock.

Once in awhile you need to remove a couple of your sheep from the flock because,  say they keep trying to strike off on their own, jumping through the electric fence. Like most in the animal world, once you have left your flock, it's often hard to return, sometimes you just aren't allowed, because you have changed or unrecognizable and what is more feared in the world then someone or something that has changed.

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Growing up I was a lot like a sheep. I’d follow my flock here and there and everywhere paralyzed by the idea that if I wandered off on my own, I too would be eaten by the big, bad, scary world.  I believed the lies that different was weird and uncool and instead taking chances, instead of being brave, because I was scared, I stayed close by for fear that if I left, I’d be criticized or even worse, ostracized and abandoned by my flock.

I was also a dreamer. A huge, wildly imaginative blue-eyed, curly haired kid who was incredible awkward around just about everyone I knew but I always had my dreams and they kept me company when no one else would. They gave me a little hope that one day I would rise above, conquer my fears, and live the life I've always envisions.

My dreams usually consisted of two things; the man I would one day meet, marry and have children with and the adventurous, fear-free, incredible life I would one day grow up to live. I obsessed over the places I would go and the things I'd get to try. I fantasized and dreams and longed for the life I would one day live.

I knew that one day I'd meet a man and get married, possibly have children and be happy. The problem with the latter however is that in order to live an adventurous, fearless life I'd have to give up my  fear of being different, my fear of being separated from my folk, from what you've always known, which I wasn’t sure I was able or ready to do.

Fear is a tricky bastard. (Tweet that no brainer)

He, unlike his enemy, fearlessness, causes lasting paralysis that plagues you well into your adult years, the time in your life when you are suppose to be too confident in who you and what you want for your life to worry about what anyone else will think.

Fear can creep up in many forms and entangle you in its sticky web of tendrils causing you to get stuck in thoughts of self-doubt and limited beliefs. It’s hard to find reprieve from his web, even if you manage to free a limb, he’s right there ready to weave another strand somewhere else.

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So, I grew up with big dreams but as a sheep, I believed that if I ventured off by myself I'd be alone and eventually eaten by something bigger then me and I was scared so I follow my flock. I followed them all the way to a college I didn’t really want to go to where I spend a year and a half numbing myself with booze and terrible hangovers, trying to quite the voice in my head that was screaming to be different, longing to be different.

Then one fateful night that dreamer, the voice deep inside had finally had enough. Picking up the phone at two in the morning, I called my mom. To be honest, my flock, not knowing what to do with me, forced me to call my mom and between hyperventilating and soaking wet tears, I took the leap of faith, I chose my dreams.

A few weeks later there I was, without my flock and a whole lot of dreams and the world was my oyster. Or so I thought.

If you ask some, they’d say that I’m a risk taker, that I live my life and I live it according to one rule, just do it now, do it now, do it now. I’ve packed up and moved across the world in as little as three weeks’ notice, I mean, that takes balls, right? Well, if you ever find  your way into that big round thing full of curly locks sitting on top of my shoulders you’d realize that although I do take some risks I’m still, after so many years of being separated from my flock, entangled in that sticky web of fear.

I’m still scared shitless of being different.

Oh what a tangled web I’ve weaved, this web of fear and self-doubt, limited beliefs and the list goes on and on. All I’ve ever wanted was to be different. I wanted to be me, the dreamer who dreams big, scary audacious dreams and then actually pursues them.

My biggest fear is that I am going to live my life making excuses for why I can’t or shouldn’t do the things I’ve always dreamed of doing or do the things I’m just now starting to dream of. I’m terrified that one day I’ll be lying on my death bed and instead saying, ‘well, that was one hell of a ride,” I’ll be saying “what was it all for anyway?"

I'm afraid that I'll keep following, in some way or another, my flock. That I will never find my own way, live authentically, connected to my purpose.

But the thing is, we have a choice. We can follow the comfort and safety of our flock or, we can dream big, take a chance, and walk away from our flock.

So today I’m proclaiming to the world, or the few of you that are actually reading this, today I’m saying enough with the excuses, enough of being a sheep, today and going forward I’m going to show up for life, I’m going to live and I’m going to continue dreaming big and taking risks.

I love sheep, they are one of my favorite animals after all,  but I certainly do not want to be one.

Baaahhh.

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Recently I serendipitously stumbled across a blog called Fearful Adventurer whose writer, Torre, followed her love onto his ‘humble boat’ and sailing around the world, she began the journey of discovering what it really means to face her fears.   Her debut novel, Love and the Chance of Drowning, was picked up by several major publishing companies shortly after self-publishing and is being made into a major motion picture. Um, I’d say that is every writers dream, right? But in all seriousness, this book is being shipped as I type this and I'm moving it to the top of my ‘to be read’ pile.

Love with a Chance of Drowning – A Memoir by Torre DeRoche

This post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.

"Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow." Australian Associated Press

"… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams." Nomadicmatt.com

"In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction." Courier Mail

Find out more…

"In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction." Courier Mail

Find out more…