Last week I was
working away in my cubicle chilling by the pool when all of the sudden I realized, HOLY SHEET! IT’S MY ONE YEAR SINGLE-VERSARY!
I promptly ran to the neighbor’s yard, picked some flowers, and left them on the doorstep for my sure-to-be-delighted self to find. “LOVE YOU, BABY!” I scrawled in red pen, sealing my accompanying note with a kiss.
Later that day, as any girl in love would do, I posted the bouquet up on my Facebook wall for all to see. (My favorite comment: ”Yeah! You know just what you like!” Hahaha!)
Yep, it’s true, guys– I’ve been single for a year now.
Lots of reasons, but that’s not really what I’m here to talk about today. I’m not here to talk about what’s missing in my life, because I don’t really feel like anything is. Instead, I’m here to talk about what it is I’ve found.
Despite a year of being “on my own,” this is the year that I’ve found Love.
In fact, I’ve found True Love, a love realer and deeper than any other. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I’ve found True Happiness– not the happiness that comes as a result of external circumstances, but the happiness and wholeness that comes from learning to love what is.
It’s been a year of learning to love myself– the good, the bad, and the ugly.
It’s been a year of learning to love the joy and the pain and the heartbreak alike, and of allowing them to open me up to something so much greater.
Yes, this has been the year that I have learned to love this life, right here, right now.
This, I think, is the ultimate love story.
* * *
Weird thing is, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a movie like this.
A movie where a girl learns to fall in love with herself?
And with all the rich and deep relationships that are surrounding her, just waiting to be discovered?
But really, where is that movie?
Today I want to change the stories our society tells about love and relationships, about singleness and about heartbreak. I want to change them from stories of girl-meets-boy-and-her-life-is-finally-complete-and-they-live-happily-ever-after-in-a-castle to stories that are perhaps a bit truer.
Today, with the help of five wise and amazing women– some married, some attached, and some single– who’ve been kind enough to share their wisdom on love, singleness, and relationship, we are rewriting the great love stories of our time.
THESE are the stories I hope we will tell our children one day– stories of self and of strength and– yes, of learning to love others, as well. When we’re experiencing heartbreak or feeling alone, when we need reminders about what it means to find love or happiness or completion, these are the stories I hope we can tell ourselves.
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STEPHANIE WALKER [LITTOF]
Stephanie is super. Stephanie is inspiring. So it only makes sense that Stephanie is also a super inspiring writer. After facing foreclosure in 2008, she wrote a book, Love in the Time of Foreclosure, in order to help others in similar situations.
“I am someone who is utterly determined to create opportunities out of difficult situations. Just as in the midst of our marital problems I was able to see the opportunity of creating the marriage of our dreams, our financial ruin was the opportunity to create the life of our dreams… Losing everything, we felt, could actually be a wonderful opportunity to create an amazing life.”
And an amazing journey it’s been– from selling 90% of their possessions to living on the San Juan islands to starting a family, Stephanie and her husband Bob have been on a journey of living and of loving ever since.
But before all this began– before she’d even met her husband, Stephanie was a single and heartbroken twenty-four year old, when her stepmom, Silvia, gave her a piece of advice that would forever change her life.
REWRITING THE LOVE STORY THAT TELLS US “SOMEONE ELSE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR HAPPINESS:”
ME: It hurts so much. It’s so unfair. (blubber blubber, sniff sniff) I don’t know how I’ll ever be happy again…
SILVIA: The thing is, you alone are responsible for your own happiness.
ME: But, you don’t understaaaaaaaaand–
SILVIA: You alone are responsible for your own happiness. Not a guy. Not a relationship. Not your mom. Not your dad. Not your job. Not your circumstances. You.
And it hit me. Not right away. But soon after that conversation I realized she was right. If I was responsible for my own happiness, then I could just be happy. Now.
I didn’t have to wait for anything to happen. I didn’t have to wait for the pain to go away. I didn’t have to wait for his new relationship to crash and burn in order to show him how amazing I was compared to her and how wrong he was for dumping me. No. In fact, I could just be happy.
More than that. It was my JOB to be happy. No one else’s. MY job.
But how do you just be happy? You begin by getting that outside circumstances have absolutely nothing to do with your happiness. Then you start doing things that happy people do. At least that’s what I did. I engaged in my life. As a single woman. I empowered myself. I determined to kick ass as a smart and single twenty-four year old. I signed up for a 500-mile bike ride for charity. And then I began training for that ride. Raising money and riding my bike all over Chicagoland for a cause far bigger than myself. This ride was the AIDS ride and raised money for people living with AIDS. Doing that made all the difference.
I was up to something and loving life. I realized that had I still been in that relationship, I probably never would have done this ride. It was such a fulfilling experience. And it completely had me get how powerful those words “You alone are responsible for your own happiness” really are.
The best part of the story comes now.
I met my husband training for that ride.
Our first date was the ride itself. 500 miles over six days from Minneapolis to Chicago. We fell in love in bike shorts and helmets, pedaling up steep hills, in wind and rain, through knee pain and sore butts… [click on over to Steph's blog to read the full post!]
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JUSTYNA CZEKAJ [Expat at Home]
I met Justyna on Twitter (is that weird?!), and I’m so glad I did. Justyna is a competent, beautiful, and most intelligent woman who will change the world (ahem, already is changing the world!), and I cannot wait to hang with her in NYC. Check out her bloggy blog, Expat at Home– well worth reading.
After a recent breakup, Justyna’s friends offered her advice on re-entering the dating world– advice like “Give sexting a chance,” “There’s this look you can give a guy to show you want him!” “Dye your hair!” and “Don’t talk politics.”
It turned out that their advice– well, their advice kinda sucked.
REWRITING THE LOVE STORY THAT TELLS US “WE NEED TO BECOME SOMEONE WE AREN’T:”
… After sprucing up the outside, I realized the inside was still a total mess. Retail therapy and facials were only going to cloud a problem that wanted to shine brighter.
When living in New York, we blame the City for somehow corrupting all of these men and turning them into monkeys in suits. We complain about their growing egos, fueled by their high-powered careers and the fact that so many other women are ready, willing and able in every sense of the words. So how could the girl that wants a stable relationship ever have a chance? This City has, in fact, little to do with the quality of the men. Our issues with men instead come from the advice that women give each other!
We’ve been raised thinking that a makeover is going to save our soul and we’ll get the guy of our dreams to finally like us (Thank you every movie of the late 90s). But the fact of the matter is that we give superficial advice while blaming men for their superficiality.
We complain about how fake guys can be as we plop on makeup, glue on eyelashes, buy jelly cutlets to enhance our boobs (damnit, where did I put my pair?) and rouge our lips all to create a reality that may be… well, fake. We see our exteriors as important, if not more so than our interiors, and we conform to someone else’s vision of beauty as we speak about empowerment and the new age of WOMAN.
But in terms of dating advice, I would like to tell my friends and admit that “WE DON’T KNOW SHIT!” My longest relationship started with a 3-hour conversation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Blonde highlights ARE NOT my color, YOU DO NOT KNOW WHO YOU ARE SEXTING, and you don’t have to fake a look for him to know you’re interested. Just be your gorgeous, incredible, spirited, intelligent, and worthy self.
And in order to be yourself, you must first learn to love yourself unconditionally, because if you don’t, no one else truly will. And if you don’t learn to love yourself, the most precious thing on the planet, how can you know what is means to truly love another?
Loving yourself is so much more than just declaring the words ‘I love me’ when you look in the mirror. It involves some words that can be pretty scary, such as defiance, risk, and discipline.
Defiance is needed so you can disregard the unhealthy, toxic advice, norms and standards of society and finally accept that who you truly are is the new norm and standard for you. It takes defiance to disregard negative whispers that come into your mind and into your life and understand that the best advice comes from the person who knows you best, you!
Risk is essential because some people may not understand or like that you are embracing all of your quirky, dorky, silly traits, while becoming proud of who you are. Risk also because when you start to love yourself you often realize that people around you don’t appreciate your beauty as they should and many times, these people have to be shown the door.
Discipline is also important so you can do the things you need to every day so you can start living the meaningful and satisfying life that was meant for you.
And when you become satisfied, if not fulfilled, by your life and what you do, only then can you be fully satisfied with someone standing next to you.
* * *
HANNAH LOARING [Further Bound]
Hannah is one of the most determined, insightful, and kind-hearted women I’ve never met (at least, we’ve never met in real life. Yet ;-). She paid off $24K of debt in 9 months and has since been fervently saving money in preparation to embark on an indefinite round the world trip come September (oh, and she’s taking her wonderful Scotsman boyfriend with her!). Today Hannah shares the story of how it was heartbreak that paved the way for her new self and her new life to unfold.
REWRITING THE LOVE STORY THAT TELLS US “HEARTBREAK IS THE END OF THE WORLD:”
When I was 18 years old, I met a man and fell deeply in love with him. Maybe even a little too deeply, as I lost myself completely in the murky depths of our relationship. Somehow I gave myself up to the role of being a girlfriend, and let go of who I was beyond that. It was wonderful for a while, and then it was just comfortable – a habit neither one of us seemed capable of breaking. Then after nearly a decade together, another woman came along, and it finally broke.
And I broke with it.
I had been so wrapped up in my relationship that I no longer knew who I was outside of it. The pieces of myself that lay in tatters across the floor where unrecognisable to me, and I had no idea how to put myself back together again. I had to start from scratch.
Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.
- Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
I booked a flight to Costa Rica, and spent six of the most incredible weeks imaginable getting to know myself again. It was a trip that changed my life…
… Five years on, I have the clarity and awareness to see [heartbreak] for what it truly was. A gift.
It has shaped and determined the life that I am currently living, and set me on course for a future full of adventure and ever changing landscapes.
It wasn’t easy for me to let love back into my life, believe me. But now I have learnt to give and receive it on an infinitely deeper level, and am grateful for the destruction that brought me this peace.
I am happier than I ever dreamed possible.
Love is a journey that you map out for yourself; you have to learn to use your heartache to help build a new path. The cold, hard rock of pain that presses against your heart– find a way to reach inside yourself and pull it out. Use that rock to… [click on over to Hannah's blog, Further Bound, to read the full post!]
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KRISTALINA [Own Awesome]
Kristalina is one of my dearest real-life friends, and I’ve been lucky enough to travel the globe with her, from London to Ibiza to Amsterdam. She is probably– no, certainly, one of the most genuine, giving, and super fun people I’ve ever met. (Also, fun fact: Kristalina lives on The Isle of Mann in the UK. How does this happen?!) When she’s not busy being adorkable, you can find her encouraging people to “own their awesomeness” at her blog, Own Awesome!
REWRITING THE LOVE STORY THAT TELLS US “WE ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH:”
I like to say I was single for 26 years of my life… No seriously! Sleepless nights wondering WTF was wrong with me? I had plenty of guys around me (I was a real guys gal but in a completely girly way). I always made sure I looked the part (hair, makeup, heels etc.), had a rockin’ job & an outgoing personality.
When Dustin and I first started dating things were complicated…
Here I was, a grown ass woman, feeling so scared! I had this amazing, handsome, kind and successful man who was completely smitten with me. I wanted to be someone’s one in a million and here he was, ready to embrace that notion & so much more.
I took a step back and had a moment with myself. I needed to remind myself of why he was so into me! I worked on learning who I was… I was a badass mamajama. I was kind, generous, funny, smart and totally worthy (<- did you catch that… Worthy, and so are you). I reminded myself that I knew exactly who I was and what made me happy… [click on over to Kristalina's blog, Own Awesome, to read the full post!]
ALETHEIA SCHMIDT [According to Aletheia]
Aletheia is a beautiful, courageous, spirit-filled woman. She’s a lover of life and of God and of art. I don’t practice a specific faith, and yet I’m consistently inspired and comforted by the beautiful words of wisdom and truth (and the beautiful art!) that she shares on her blog. I think you will be, too.
REWRITING THE LOVE STORY THAT TELLS US “THE PURPOSE OF LIFE IS MARRIAGE:”
The purpose of life isn’t marriage and sometimes I really think that we– that I– have believed that.
And yet… all ecstasies and intimacies, all desires and unmet longings, every hole and disappointment will be met in God, by God. And even though I still do hope that one day someone will commit as much as himself to me for as long as he breathes on this earth, I long for this day even more.
Loops and swirls
And even in the moments or hours or seasons or years, when I feel alone,
when I am alone–
whether alone never felt so good–
or alone never hurt so much–
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[Image by Helga Weber]