On the Self, and Love, Actually

Some of us are blessed with the ability to fall in love at an alarming rate; take me for example, I fall in love 60% of the time, every time (but really, just mostly every time). But over the course of my life,  I’ve come to learn that there’s something slightly more difficult about real love.

Fluff love – the stuff of rom coms, complete with the brief rise of butterflies – doesn’t count as real love, and even though we all chase that fleeting feeling, we’re chasing the wrong thing.

Being able to sustain something is where the real work begins, or rather, where the fluff love ends and the real love begins. Part of the problem is the whole actually finding the right thing thing, because the fluff of love is ubiquitous, if you want it, but it is truly rare to find a sustainable connection, the kind that burns warm and comfortable even after the glittering newness has faded. It requires a lot: finesse, dedication, truly aligned values and goals, but honestly (and my old therapist will be so happy that this landed), it’s all about acceptance.

At first, you’re okay with the exterior compatibility stuff – you both love fine wine, hooray!; you love fantasy football (or at least need a fantasy consultant at least once a week to sustain a moderate league ranking), oh joy!; you both attended private kindergartens in the Northwest, woohoo! – but at the end of that, you need the long term compatibility stuff – are we similar enough people to do actually do this life together?  To do this when things aren’t fuzzy and bubbly with champagne tingles, when you’ve realized that they’ve left the damn cabinets open again for the 8th time this week and you might want to murder them, or when they’re tired and grumpy and are trying to talk you into eating takeout for the third night in a row.

I can only hope that I’ve gotten better at discerning the good ones as time has gone on. Because good, honest connection is worth everything, and worth waiting for, cultivating, and nurturing. And after quite a few detours, I’m finally back to a place where I’m dating with intention, but this time, the intention is from within.

I recently attempted to explain to a friend – who was concerned that her new relationship didn’t mean as much to the her partner because he’s one of those “in love a lot” guys – that for those of us who fall in love over and over again with the agility, grace, and speed of an Olympic hurdler, the whole falling in love thing feels new every single time. It’s definitely not as thrilling as when you’re fourteen and exchanging love notes after math class, but it’s undeniably….much better, although scarier, and certainly still exciting enough to entice that sweetly radiant secret smile that you save for those blissful moments (think women eating chocolate in a chocolate commercial. That’s the smile).

I’m a lot more realistic than I was when I was younger. I’ve learned a lot, too. Some of the lessons were hard (character building, as my mom says) – for example, if he doesn’t make you a priority, you’re certainly not one now and you’re never going to be one. Other lessons were random, like rap music; how to make a mean Manhattan; how to to snowboard; and how to love Marilyn Manson.

I’ve learned a lot about myself, too. The whole inspiration for this post was an article I was reading where a woman was discussing female power, and in that, she hit on one of the things that I know I overlooked for far too long: stop trying to embody someone else’s ideal of who and what you should be. It’s not sustainable in the long term, and it’s certainly not doing you or anyone else any favors. It weakens the core of who you are, and the struggle of the attempt is exhausting. The push for authenticity is far more realistic, attainable, and satisfying.

What I came to realize was not so much that I had been trying to fit into what the man wanted (which is absolutely what was happening, too), but even more so that I had been trying to compose the idea of what I imagined that I wanted to become, or the idea of this woman that I would be, all while trying to meet continually changing expectations.

It wasn’t me at all, and the parts of everything that had been me had slipped so much over time that at the end of it when I came back into myself, it was like jumping into an ice cold lake. I abhorred certain aspects of the person that I was becoming, and yet, I felt compelled to continue, despite the lingering pull of my true self begging me not to give those parts up.

Sudden was the big whoosh of revitalization; the acclimation back into myself was swift and certain, and suddenly the world was bright again.

The takeaway, the big lesson worth learning, and learning well: Your own Nude Suit is the only suit that is suitable for the search for searing connection. Be yourself. I mean, be your best self, for sure, but be honest. There’s nothing better than honesty, openness, and a little bit of laughter, because who you are at your core doesn’t change.

The fleeting beginnings of fluff love are fun, but impermanent. But then again, I sometimes wonder if everything is impermanent – that’s a lesson that I’m attempting to learn, but the whole living-in-the-moment lesson is a post for another day.

 

 

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