Warning: naughty language ahead!
Ever since I can remember, all I’ve ever wanted to be is in love.
From the age of eight, I’d play with my Barbie and Ken dolls, doing the talking for each doll, just like a play.
I would reenact variations of love stories, and these were creative tales from an eight-year-old girl. There’d always be some sort of emotional fight or struggle between the two of them, but it would always end up with Barbie being swept off her feet by Ken. I guess I learnt this through the many Walt Disney films that I’d watched.
There was a longing for my childhood to have a happy ending like each Disney story. I believed that it was okay that my mother and father had split, as this was just a part in a beautiful story, the hero’s journey. Eventually mum and dad would reunite, because that’s what happens, right!? It all turns out well in the end.
Even as a child, I knew somewhere inside of me that Barbie needed to get to that point of surrender to let Ken into her world. I never gave this kudos in my own, real adult world though. Playing with dolls is so much easier than living real life, eh?
At 38, I found myself once again disappointed by the monotony of disappointment that comes with the world of online dating and, let’s face it, dating in general. Another encounter with someone who I found myself wanting to get to know and fantasising a life together.
I knew this was dangerous territory to enter, and it came to me as no surprise when it ended—or rather didn’t even bloody start—as I had feared. I suggested to him that we stop whatever it was that we were doing or had going, as I felt that I wanted more than he did and that for whatever reason he wasn’t in that same place. When his messages came back, the underlying message was that my suspicions were confirmed.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how much the other person cares about you, how different or unfortunate the circumstances are in their life, when yet again another connection ends for whatever reason, it feels the same. It’s the same result, so why should it matter that they think you’re frigging awesome but timing sucks?
It feels as if you’re the only person in the world who isn’t supposed to find happiness and be in love. It feels as if there’s something so fundamentally wrong with you, that you either attract people who are unavailable or that you’re just not good enough for anybody.
Life as a single solitary person becomes so normal that you forget what it’s like to wake up alongside another human being. You forget that sense of touch that ignites a small flame deep within when you feel their skin against yours. You forget what it’s like to care about somebody so much that your thoughts are consumed with ways in which you can make them happy.
You find yourself focusing on other stuff as you accept that this is you now, that you have no control over meeting someone, and therefore life has to find another meaning instead. Yet you cannot help but feel the bitterness that wells up inside of you when you’re faced with another Instagram or Facebook image of a happy couple, a marriage proposal, a newborn baby, and another moment of “togetherness.”
You don’t want to be bitter; you want to be happy, and you want to be happy for others too, but you ask yourself, “What’s wrong with me that I can’t have what everybody else seems to have? I mean, I’m not asking for the world, just a little piece of it. What I would give just to have what others have?”
Be careful what you wish for, a beautiful friend of mine said to me. And she was right. Do I regret it what I wished for? God no. However, I had to be ready and prepared to pay the price.
The price was me being fragile and open to someone seeing me, all of me, every inch of me, physically and emotionally, and it’s not as easy as you think—but it’s so freaking worth it.
Here’s what I learned about being naked emotionally in order to fall in love:
I met this man (we’ll call him Darren) at a festival when I was at a stage in my life where I’d accepted my fate as a single woman. I wasn’t happy about it, but I really had given up and had started to put other plans in place, as I knew that these were the lemons that life had given me, and I had chosen to squeeze them and make something bittersweet. Lemonade is overrated.
Maya Angelou said, “Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”
So, there he stood before me, asking me the question that normally I’d want to ask others when I’m feeling there’s a connection and I’m trying to gauge where the fuck this sorry mess is heading: “Where’s your head at?”
Fate continued to interrupt my answer to that question time and time again, so when I finally had a moment to speak, I spoke loud and clear: “I’ve said to myself recently that I cannot do it anymore—relationships, that is. I can’t put myself through it anymore. But I admit that you’ve caught my attention, and I guess I’d like to explore it.”
Where the fuck did that come from? I thought to myself as the words left my mouth.
There it was out in the open, and for once I did not feel terrified as to how it was received. Normally, I play that cat-and-mouse game. Very badly, I might add. I’m horrible at the cool, calm, collected, casual, “let’s-just-see-where-this-goes” attitude. The real me is a hopeless romantic yearning to fall in love—but, of course, only a complete fatal attraction bunny boiler would admit that.
So, you play the game, you hold the mask up, and you pretend to be aloof. You don’t click into the WhatsApp message straight away, ’cause you want to look busy and too important for this type of shit. Every time it ends in tears, as there’s no way I can hold that heavy mask up for too long. My insecurities get the better of me, as they’re only highlighted when dancing to this sorry tune of “Where’s his head at?”
At this stage in my life, I had nothing to lose, no one to impress, as I’d accepted my fate and I had made other plans and I was so done with the fucking game, the dance of playing hard to get.
However, the dance between Darren and I was different; instead of me taking a step forward and him a step back, we were stepping together and in time. Moving effortlessly across the dance floor, with no tears, no doubt, no misunderstandings, no insecurities, because we actually talked—a lot. We talked about the stuff that mattered.
In the words of Brené Brown, we both “showed up,” and, yes, naked in the physical sense—but most importantly emotionally naked.
What I realise now, and what I knew back then as a child but had forgotten, is that love—the real thing, not the lust or desire but real love—is so fucking unbelievably scary yet incredible all at once. It means showing up, showing those parts of you that even you don’t want to face sometimes.
It highlights every weakness, every flaw, every goddamn blemish, and it says, “This is me.”
I’m so totally vulnerable right now and I’m trusting you with all of me.
I’m letting go of all of what I think I ought to be and should be, and I’m jumping off the cliff edge to take a step into the unknown. I don’t even know if you will break my fall by catching me, but I’m taking that step.
Sometimes, yes, life can be cruel and you can show up. Sometimes you take the step and no one breaks your fall. It hurts so bad—the shame, the raw feelings of rejection and disappointment of what could have been—but it’s like anything in life. Our level of happiness is dependent on our level of uncertainty that we’re willing to risk. I heard this from the awesome life coach and business entrepreneur Peter Sage, and it’s stuck with me.
I assumed for many years that I was vulnerable and open to love, but I look back now before Darren and I see I never truly was.
Having recently listened to the audiobook Attached that talks about many types of relationships, I realise now that I’m what is called an “anxious attachment” type seeking an “avoidant attachment” type. This cycle only confirmed my worst fears; I’m not enough to be loved. I was on a hamster wheel of attracting avoidant attachments because this felt familiar. It always played out the same way, and I was used to this. I knew I had so much love to give, I knew that I wanted love, but I wasn’t sure how to receive it.
The day I met someone who showed me they loved me through their actions, through their words and their lovemaking, at first it was overwhelming, it took my breath away. I wasn’t sure that it was real or right. However, I took deep breaths, as I knew wholeheartedly that I wanted this, I knew that I wasn’t afraid of this anymore as I’d lived a life of pain and suffering with regards to love, so the worst had already transpired.
Acknowledging that gave me the strength to face my demons and be open to being open to love. Today I communicate all the time with Darren, and, whilst he may not always get where I’m coming from, I feel his love and he really listens. I feel like we’re on this journey together.
For anyone who is feeling despair with regards to finding love, then I suggest that you be honest with yourself about how prepared you are to “show up” for love, and, in the words of Maya Angelou, have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.