What does love mean to you?
My description of what love looks like has changed over the years as I’ve grown and lived my life.
My perception of what love looked like in my family of origin was skewed. I grew up believing love was conditional on outcomes. If I got enough As at school and finished first enough times ski racing somehow I’d be enough and would be told I was loved.
Love was sexualized in my home growing up and so I did what I knew to get love which led me down a very dark path. I have this alter ego, a seductress of sorts who shows up when she needs attention and love.
In recovery I learned there was a different way to love. My beautiful, sweet home group, who became my family by choice, loved me into the parts of myself I couldn’t and still struggle with. They see me with eyes of love and remind me of who I am when I most need it.
Thanks to them and the work I’ve done to recover the parts of myself I was meant to be, I’ve slowly and sometimes painfully, discovered what healthy love looks and feels like.
As I’ve been so beautifully reminded over and over again in these past weeks of social distancing, while listening to hours upon hours of program speakers sharing their experience, strength and hope through online conferences and workshops: I am a child of God.
I’ll say it again: I am a child of God.
Born perfect. With no need to be anything else but the fullest expression of myself.
That is certainly not a notion I grew up with.
It is a profound and life changing realization. The constant striving, the need to keep learning and working on myself can ease. Instead I can find that space between that need and who I am. A grace of sorts. Love for who I am exactly in this moment.
Because as program so beautifully reminds me: I am right where I am meant to be. In this moment, exactly as I am.
It’s another one of those penny drop moments where something just clicks into place and life as I know it is again forever changed.
Last night I had the opportunity to spend time with a man I love. It’s been challenging outside of program to be friends with men and not dip into the waters of sex. I have yet to master this ability.
I met this amazing human in the midst of my disease fifteen years ago and I somehow knew to draw firm lines around him. He and I were to be friends and nothing more. We lost sight of each other while I was in relationship and as my Higher Power would have it our paths crossed again afterwards.
I was so shattered after my relationship fell apart. I lost the only home I had known for 16 years, my former stepdaughter and my ex. I moved and started over. There weren’t many pieces of my old life left and nothing felt remotely familiar. Fortunately I had found recovery by then and had my people to lean on.
Within two months of this huge change, he came back into my life again to remind me of our friendship and love.
We picked up right back where we’d left off and after a while we started dating. I was a shadow of who I am now, broken and full of pain. Still enmeshed with my ex in a trauma bond. I fell into the comfort of his arms only to realize I had attracted another variation of an unavailable man. He is very good at what he does and keeps himself incredibly busy.
What did I do? I broke his heart.
A long weekend where he was working a gig, I went off to Calabogie to watch the National Wake Boarding Championships. The event was cancelled part way through due to thunderstorms on the lake. I stopped in a town on the way home and met a man I fell head over heels in love with. I’m still at a loss for words to describe what happened.
It was like something out of the movies. We met at an ice cream shop and sat for hours talking while the place closed. Neither of us wanting to leave this moment. It didn’t matter than he was in an unhappy relationship. Old me didn’t care.
You see I was a master at fixing men or so I thought. Instead I’ve learned in recovery to keep the focus on me, to deal with my own pain and allow others the dignity of their choices.
I hurt my beloved friend. I broke his heart because unbeknownst to me he had fallen in love with me.
The pain wasn’t over, as men rarely leave their partners so I in turn, had my heart broken. That was the level of chaos I caused and can still cause if I’m not careful.
Here I sit almost five years since those events and I have tears streaming down my face at the level of love this man still has for me. I don’t need to be anything other than who I am when I show up with him. There is no striving, no need for perfection, we can just sit and be. Together.
That’s exactly what we did last night for hours. Talking, listening to music, laughing till my throat was hoarse. He held me and we talked some more, and I marveled at the way he loves me.
He touches me with reverence, asks for permission and holds space with no expectations of sex. He reminds me I am beautiful and all I feel is love. Just being in that moment with him is such a gift.
As tears keep falling, I am reminded that God loves me and wants me to be happy. I am a child of God and worthy of safe, sweet beautiful love.
We all are.
What a gift.