Realignment

Fracture Bone, Xray, Skeleton, Diagnosis

There’s an infectious axiom that floats around daytime television, self-help books, and yes – blogs: No one else can love you until you love yourself.

Bullshit.

During my darkest hours, I was loved.  For every day I was most full of self-loathing and despair, there was a person in my life who loved me… and probably couldn’t see the corrosive feelings gnawing away at my insides.  Just like I couldn’t see their love.  Like there was an invisible wall between us.

Those people propelled me to start a ten-year journey of healing from a place of self-injury to a deep self-love… and I did it in a way that would make life coaches cringe hard.

Stage One: Build a fortress.

In my late twenties, I met some rebellious and raucous women who inspired me to say, “Fuck this.”  I stopped looking for love and relished just having a good time; I casually dated and never let anyone get close to me for years.  Using this defense mechanism of putting up walls allowed me to do two important things – learn who I was and what I wanted for me outside of relationships, and embrace casual sex.  I’m very thankful for both.

Stage Two: Stop dating men.

I’d had so many excruciating experiences wherein I a) developed Real Feelings for a boy, b) told him, c) had sex with him to get him to like me back, and d) felt crushed when surprise! He didn’t.  This is probably one of the reasons why I just stopped being that attracted to men.  Dating women allowed me to express my feelings in a safe space (for the most part).  They didn’t lie to or mislead me in order to get sex; in fact, if anything, I had to work on my communication skills in order to tell them exactly what I wanted up front and be really honest when I wasn’t looking for a monogamous relationship – before the sex.  Not only did I have relationships (and phenomenal sex) with strong, adventurous, no-nonsense, compassionate, intelligent, and hilarious women – I was surrounded by them in my community.  Dating women taught me that I have inherent value that is not directly tied to my cunt.

Step Three: Allow yourself to fall in love recklessly with someone you know will break your heart.

I started dating men again because I fell in love with a coworker who I knew was going to leave in a matter of months. When I realized a month in how intensely and romantically I loved this man compared to his palpably platonic love for me, I acknowledged it and dove in headfirst.  I allowed myself to feel all of my feelings – the euphoric and the excruciating – and when I made it through the other side, I’d learned not only to survive, but to open my heart completely because I knew I could survive and recover from heartache.

[Step 3.5: Travel to a tropical locale.  Feel the breeze, listen to the waves, self-evaluate, and drink rum.  Have a lot of sweaty sex with someone who makes you laugh hard.]

Step Four: Recognize the value of other people’s love.

I never have to guess how The Engineer feels about me, and he never has to guess how I feel about him; we tell each other every single day earnestly and without prompting.  His emotional intelligence and general smooshiness have made me reflect on my expression of love to friends and family and theirs to me – and I try mindfully not to take a single drop of that love for granted.  When I was in my early twenties and was surrounded by people who loved me, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.  Or, rather, the tree – the tree being whomever I happened to be infatuated with at the moment.

Lots of people have loved me when I didn’t love myself – when, in fact, I felt empty, worthless, and unlovable.  And their love, whether or not I felt it, allowed my fractures to be re-broken and eventually mend – if not perfectly, enough to make me feel whole in and of myself.

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19 thoughts on “Realignment

  1. I think we are all so beautifully fragile in ways that actually make us strong. Maybe it seems ironic or impossible, but like bones…alone we fall apart, and together, we form bonds and connections that protect us. This is a great post…and I spent quite some time following the links and reading your other posts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much! I totally agree – we are like bones. Our communities, networks, family, and friendships really hold us together. There’s been a lot of sociological research done lately to support the fact that we need each other… which is why it’s so important to talk about communication and relationship skills with young people early on!

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  2. I think you have found a perfect way that worked for you and fitted you, and somehow I wish I could have done it that way. But, my life was frequently about surviving and not being in touch with my own feelings, which is why I am having so much trouble working through the sadness of my mom’s passing. I keep on suppressing my own feelings (unconsciously). Some days I really wish I could just allow the hurt to happen, like when you loved the man even though you know he would break your heart…
    Thank you for sharing this!

    Rebel xox

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Everyone’s trauma is different and we all cope in ways that our bodies and minds allow us to at the time. You’ll work through your darkness when it’s the right time, but I think it’s okay to protect yourself until you’re ready. I completely walled myself off from people for several years, and I needed that time to figure some stuff out before I was ready to feel things again. Be kind to yourself, Marie. Survival comes first; processing comes later, and you are supported when you’re ready. ❤ xx

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    1. Right, just like how we’re supposed to live every single moment like it’s our last. *cry/laugh* I dunno – I felt pretty alive all those years that I wouldn’t let anyone get close to me!

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  3. I don’t think anyone really loved me, apart from parents, until Michael. The love I feel from him is something so very special and powerful and I never had that from anyone before

    Mollyx

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    1. I have a hard time believing that (what about your children?!); I think there are a lot of people in our lives who care for us deeply and just never explicitly express it to us.

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  4. Powerful piece Jo, and I also disagree with the whole ‘you can’t love anyone else until you love yourself’ or ‘you can’t be loved until you love yourself’ trope. Sometimes it’s just harder to see it and feel it from certain people, whilst others love you no matter what and you know and feel that deep down xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Posy Churchgate

    Very strong and informative post, a wonderful journey laid out so logically – I am glad you understand yourself so much better now. Interestingly Brigit wrote about building walls around herself as a coping mechanism this week too. Thanks for sharing – and thank goodness for the Engineer!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I found love to be a tricky thing I’m still learning about. Love means ppl leave you or love means ppl put conditions on you. Michael really helps me to not feel like those things are happening or will happen. That’s why I like your step 3. Dive in anyway because there’s freedom in that.

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    1. Yes, absolutely! Once I discovered that I could make it through terrible heartache and still come out wanting to share my love and keep my heart open, it felt incredibly liberating! I’m glad you are learning, loving, and being loved. ❤

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