I find myself having the greatest moments of inspiration sitting in traffic on my way to work lately. Maybe it's because the part of my day where I am alone with just myself. Or maybe my thoughts are just a distraction from the crazy people who are driving too fast down a highway that is clogged. We're all going to get there, guys. This week I was thinking a lot about people, both present and gone, but not just people. I started thinking about my husband and my father and all the boys I've loved before. I thought how curious my journey with love has been and this idea of forgiveness started to take root. I started thinking about every relationship that I found myself in, the longs ones and the ones that lasted just a moment. I thought about the lessons each one taught me, the ones I kept and the ones I realized weren't to take with me along my way. Every person who comes into our lives has a purpose, not all good but a purpose just the same. I thought about the relationships my younger self found myself in compared to the relationships that I allowed as I got older and how vast the difference was, how toxic they once were versus the healthy of what they have become. When we're younger it's all so fast, so quick, so visceral. Everything about being young feels like fire and it's wonderful and exciting and, at times, harmful but lovely, too. I look at my husband and, as corny as this may sound, realize that I needed every one of those bad guys to truly accept someone like him. And I started to understand that maybe love isn't so much about love for someone else. It's more about loving yourself.
I will be honest. I have carried around a lot of fear of my life, of people walking out on me, of not being enough, of somehow not living up to my own expectations. I had this fake sense of courage that I wore because my biggest fear was for someone to see me as vulnerable. If you could see my weakness, then you would know exactly how to hurt me but I was always really good at doing that on my own. Boys just seemed cruel, something I needed to keep at arms length. So that's where I kept them for a long time even the ones I thought I loved. So I allowed myself to get into these bad relationships with bad people because that's what I thought I deserved. I thought that if they were less then I would be more, could feel like I was more. And I know that sounds twisted in its own way but I did not have enough faith in myself to realize I was more without them. I was full of self sabotage because it was easier to fail, easier to be with these people that didn't involve a lot of effort. What difference did it make if we didn't make it? I wasn't looking for forever. I was looking for that moment because when you're young it's only that moment that matters. I remember my father shaking his head at me, at these choices I was making, knowing what he was thinking, knowing that he knew I knew I deserved better and being frustrated that I kept picking these toads. I also knew that these toads were somehow important. Not because they meant something but because where they took me would someday mean so much more.
I wore my father's flannel the other day to work. Sometimes I just like to wear it, to feel like he's still somehow here. He's been gone for four years and it's amazing the parts of him I understand so much clearly now than I did when he was alive. He was the first man I ever loved. I don't want that to come off as something strange. It's a beautiful thing, this love between a father and his daughter. When we're younger, he's the one who protects you, who teaches you, who shows you what respect truly means. He is what you should look for when you become older, not him exactly but these qualities that he exemplifies. And we don't necessarily understand that then. I know that I was lucky enough to have a father who loved his children, who would go to hell and back for his children, who wanted absolutely nothing but the best for his children. I become more grateful for that every day even though he is not physically with me in this world. I look back at all those boys that I surrounded myself as a young woman and I see how they were everything he was not. I see clearly how I intentionally dated the very opposite of him. I understood what kind of partner I should have but It did not mean that I thought I deserved it. And then I grew up. It's funny how quickly that happens. I blinked and I realized this search for love had nothing to do with anyone else. Somewhere in my life my father taught me that. I heard him loud and clear, just didn't want to listen until I met my husband. I know that sounds like I am contradicting myself but bare with me. There are things about my husband that remind me of my father. He has a kindness to him, this giant heart that exudes this amazing sort of love, the same kindness and love that my father had. To me, that is comforting but it's not that I need my husband to understand what I am worth. Somewhere along that highway this week I thought a lot about this road I was on, the passengers I have had along my way, and it sort of just hit me that all he ever tried to teach me was that I was the one in charge. It wasn't about who loved me or how they loved me or if they loved me at all. It was all relative and somewhat pointless.
I look at my husband and know how lucky I was to find a partner who accepts me for every crazy that I am. He doesn't always understand my chaos or why I feel frantic or how I see the world but he loves me enough to not try to change me either. I am who I am, every nutty part of me. I've worked really hard to become so comfortable in this skin (though the work is still in progress). I see my flaws and I accept them, finding a way to make them something beautiful, too. And I guess that's what my father was always trying to say but I wasn't able to hear him until I was able to love myself. I still battle. It's really annoying because I know that there is so much good in me but still it rages. I look at my husband, this person who I happily align myself with, knowing that he would have never had a chance in my life if I thought nothing of myself. And I am grateful. I had this strange thought about love this week, this love for other people and this love for myself, this simply complicated word. I allowed my mind to wander through my life, going through every relationship from my father, to my husband, and to the ones in between. I thought about how horrible some made me feel, the euphoria that some gave me, the swiftness of others, the safety that I finally found, the one relationship that still makes me fumble. I realized that I needed to forgive myself for all those bad choices, for all the good ones that I walked away from out of fear but I needed to forgive myself for myself, too. I realized that most of my bad choices, all that fear, so much of my own pain was caused for one reason and one reason alone. I wasn't brave enough to allow myself to love myself. And on my way to work wearing my Dad's old flannel, something finally clicked. It wasn't about who had come and gone through out my life. It was about the one person who has been with me the entire way. It was about me, the amount of love I gave to myself. It was about forgiveness. It was about finding the courage to be ourselves, completely and fully in our own skin. The only way to truly love anyone is loving ourselves in whatever form we are, broken or complete, flaws and all.