I've been wanting to write this post for a long time. It's a story about love, choices, and wanting the best for yourself, but also, it's a story about me.
And it's not an easy story to tell (the best ones never are, right?), but I think it's an important story to tell because there are a lot of women and men who could benefit from hearing it, who maybe do not have someone to tell them the most important three words my mother has ever said to me.
To start, I have to tell you about two summers ago, which seems like a lifetime ago, but was actually, well, two summers ago. I was on a cruise with my mom, a vacation that (looking back) I believe she had orchestrated just to have some time to really talk to me about what the hell was going on in my life. I had just turned 24 years old, and I was in an utterly failing relationship, the details of which are too cliche to even go into (you know, your typical mid-twenties relationship that everyone but you knows is headed nowhere good).
My mom has a degree in counseling, something she did after her PhD in education just to have what she calls "a retirement plan" (I swear, the woman has had more careers and accomplishments than anyone I know, but that's another story). Because of this, conversing with her is often a very therapeutic experience. She doesn't really give you advice, but she asks the right questions to make you see the total truth.
My mom was never going to say of my relationship "Run, run the other way!" even though that is what she was thinking and also felt was her parental responsibility to say, but I could sense her concern. I had started to become concerned myself. I wasn't happy, but I was also harboring delusions that things might somehow "work out," and all of these delusions involved this other person completely changing. Instead of just admitting it was a horrible fit, I had been trying to solve the problems on my own, though a real look around would have revealed a.) the problems were not solvable by me, though I was the only one trying to solve them and b.) they weren't my problems to solve.
And so, we were having this conversation on the balcony of the cruise ship. I'll never forget it. I described some of my concerns to my mother, and I asked her a question, I said, "I don't know, does anyone ever feel 100% sure on their wedding day?" It honestly seemed unrealistic to me. Wasn't that just too much to ask?
My mother didn't answer immediately. She has weathered two divorces (by the time she was 24, she had already been through divorce number one), and when it comes to her kids especially, I think she answers every question carefully.
What she finally said was, "Some people do." And then, she went inside.
I stayed on the balcony pretty much stunned. My mother's faith that some people can and do find the perfect fit, that a great relationship with no fears, hang-ups, hesitations, or "issues" was possible moved something in me. That moment made me examine myself totally. Here I was, 24 years old and already considering settling? I made a decision right then to end that relationship, and though I couldn't act on that decision immediately (while out of the country), it was made in my mind. I wanted that wonderful, great, healthy relationship. I wanted to not just be the person making all the effort, but to be the person (to someone else) that was worth making the effort for. I wanted my wedding day to be wonderful, to walk down the aisle with the confidence that I was doing a good thing for myself. With this person, I knew, I could never have that. To commit to that relationship would have been to commit to future divorce. I felt my insides screaming "RUN," and I did.
I wish I could say it was easy, but the truth is, even the decisions we feel most strongly about, most sure about, well, those are also some of the hardest. Ending that relationship also meant examining my life and myself in a way that was just SO uncomfortable. What kind of person was I, I wondered, to let myself stay with someone who was so obviously not right for me and not valuing me? I felt relieved, but also angry and lost. Restructuring my life in my last year of graduate school was confusing and difficult, but I was lucky and those times also reinforced so many great friendships and brought some wonderful, new friendships into my life.
And one of those great, true friends was Brendan. Brendan, who I loved long before I said it, and who held my hand on some of the tough days, when I wasn't at my best and still made me feel beautiful and, more importantly, valued. This is a man who could make me laugh, who could talk to me about interesting things for hours, and who made me feel brave. I felt so strongly with him that feeling of I have been searching for you all my life. I began to break all my own little self imposed "rules" (I'll never do a boyfriend's laundry, I'll never move for a boyfriend), my closest friends definitely noticed the huge transitions and gave me knowing smiles. What could I say? It turns out, I would do a lot for the right person. And why? Because he does so much for me too.
I'll tell you what a well meaning friend, relative, or someone that just doesn't want to make you second guess yourself might not: A good relationship is an ongoing dance, but no one always leads or follows. You hold each other close, you're in stride, and you cover one another's mistakes. If you're in the good relationship, the thought of marrying that person makes you nothing but happy. There are no doubts, or things you wish were different about that person. In a good relationship, you take that partner by the hand, as is, and both of you let yourselves get swept away.
I'm so glad I didn't settle for anything but perfect. When I walk down the aisle, I'll be walking to meet my best friend, and no matter what else happens on that day, the fact that it is him standing there will be the only thing that truly matters.
But the reason it is happening is because someone in my life made me believe it was possible and because I believed that I deserved to feel that happy. And everyone deserves that.
So, there you have it, the best three words my mom ever said to me. Thank you, mom, for helping me to see...
Some people do.