Being at my bottom, broken and vulnerable, changed me. I felt completely lost and alone. But something new happened. I needed people. And when I saw how closed everyone around me around me was, my heart rebelled. It opened.
When I was alone in my twenties, I felt free with every possibility before me. At 30, I got married to the wrong man, someone in whom I now recognize my father. Not long after my divorce, men (boys) a decade or more younger began to ask me out. These were the kinds of guys who would never have looked at me at their age. I had been too awkward, I tried too hard, and I had no idea what to do about my hair. But as soon as I turned 36, wherever I went, gorgeous, charming, fresh-brained boys approached me. I dated. A lot. But one afternoon, a 26-year-old former college quarterback and I were discussing Star Wars, and I suddenly realized he was talking about the new clone movies while I referenced the originals, which I had seen in theaters, thank you very much. Eventually, I also let myself get walked on. When I’d finally had enough, I switched gears and decided I didn’t want to sleep with someone again until I thought he had a chance to be the last person I’d sleep with. Sex has changed for me, largely because I haven’t had any in over four years, and I haven’t lay in the arms of someone I felt in love with since 2011. My concept of love has also changed. I look at men now I never would have before. He has a belly but is he funny? He’s losing his hair but is he loving?
I’ve had my heart broken more than once, but I know if I close up, it will only get harder. I watch both single and coupled people harden when it comes to love. During the years I shoved my problems down, I put on a tough front. I was angry and shut down. Being obliterated by C-PTSD and building myself back up piece by piece made me softer somehow. I was able to look at each shard and decide what was working and what wasn’t. I’m the only person in my family that’s talking to everyone and that everyone is taking suggestions from to improve their relationships with each other. But I can imagine that a love prospect who admits she lost everything, including her mind, is scary. ‘Maybe she’ll be needy or brooding or angry or negative,’ they might be thinking, which are not traits my family and friends would use to describe me anymore.
I tried online dating. I tried to be funny and honest while highlighting my “normal” accomplishments and achievements. I had no pictures on top of Machu Picchu surrounded by smiling orphans, no business cards, selfies surrounded by women slighlty less hot than me and empty martini glasses. I went on a few dates. I asked him a lot of questions. He didn’t ask many. I was glad though because I didn’t have to explain the gap in my resume. How do I describe what I’ve been doing the last few years? SURVIVING. I wish there were an online dating site for me. Somewhere I could fill out a form: ‘What is your F response? a. fight b. flight c. freeze d. fawn. Then they could match me with a compatible survivor.I’m probably not myself. I’m afraid.
I ache to love. And I do: I love several people, deeply. But right now, they are far away. I am committed to calling them, picking up late at night, being honest, looking at my part, showing up and following through, telling them I love and appreciate them, trying to accept their limitations, choosing battles, and usually choosing not to battle but to appreciate them until the day I or they die. I’ve lost a lot of people and learned not to take anyone for granted.
I no longer get highlights. I can’t wear heels anymore. I wouldn’t call my breasts exactly ‘perky’. But I’ve begun to look in the mirror and think I’m beautiful (most of the time) and I recently caught myself telling someone I was “a real catch.” But I wonder if I’d have to meet someone with a similar past who’ll understand that occasionally I just need to be held and reassured. I know I can’t be around rage. But these are good things to know. I’m glad I’ve gotten to know them.
Maybe … I’ll be alone. I used to be okay with it. I hope to be again. Okay. Lots of writers lead solitary lives. I just hope that someday it doesn’t remind me of the loneliness I felt as a kid. I know it won’t forever. That’s just where I am today.