“You rose alone through winter’s coldest storm, but look how full you’ve grown.” ~ Angie Welland Crosby
An old friend of mine uses the analogy of a mixed bag to describe relationships.
The mixed bag is when you take all the bad and all the good of one individual, throw the pieces in the bag, and mix it up. Then, you look at the bag and decide if you can live with that person every day and still love them for who they are.
But what about our own mixed bag? What is that elusive, intangible quality within us that it takes for all the ingredients to work simultaneously? In the words of Paul McCartney, all you need is love.
But what kind of love was he describing? How do you know that true partnership is what you’re really building on?
You know when you have realistic expectations.
You know when you share. You divulge. You trust, without caution.
You don’t want to fight because showing up is more important than being right.
You want to give, instead of take—without any conditions.
You want to keep on loving, even when it seems impossible.
You can be naked; both emotionally, and physically.
You withhold judgment.
You have no fear.
You do not wonder or have regrets.
You never, ever question the choice you made because you just…know!
After spending an entire decade of my 20s married and then divorced, and half of my 30s already married for the second time around, I realize that just like the ingredients in a mixed bag, true partnership is a puzzle where all of the pieces need to find their place for the entire thing to fit as one, whole part.
We are the active participants in this journey. We are the ones showing up every day for the dream of love conquers all. And yet, our desire to thrive in a beautiful, healthy, and loving relationship, at times, fails us.
Instead, we idealize. We manipulate. We coerce. We fight.
We don’t admit when we are wrong. Sometimes, we don’t even know what it is that we’re fighting about, or worse, fighting for.
We self-blame and blame others.
We want euphoria, safety, security, but we do not offer it.
We jump ship before we’re even ready to face ourselves.
We avoid pain but end up blocking joy.
We want love to be delivered to us on a golden platter with all of its counterparts in place.
We want forever, but at what cost?
We are afraid to hold the mirror to our face because we don’t want to see the reflection back of the person who’s been in our own way all along: ourselves.
But, maybe, partnership isn’t always about having all the ingredients in the mixed bag, maybe it’s about learning to love ourselves first—wholly and unconditionally—before we can be true to someone else. The imperfections are what help us grow. They teach us how to love an imperfectly, perfect human being.
Because partnership is just that—sharing the pain, the struggles, the ups and downs, the emotional turmoil when all of the sparkle in our eyes is too buried to tap into. That is pain, but it is also beauty. It is raw. It is real. It is what makes for this messy, passionate, wild adventure that keeps us showing up every single day for the ones we love, but mostly, for ourselves.
Because the ingredients aren’t only about the pieces of the puzzle always fitting together; they’re also the elements of honesty, truth, responsibility, and commitment.
The biggest piece that we have to find is the light inside of ourselves, especially when it is broken. That is the piece that makes partnership—enoughness.
I cannot be a “we,” if I don’t have me, and when I do, I am capable of bringing my best self to the table. I can take the mixed bag, the scattered pieces of the puzzle, the brokenness, and the imperfections, and find the beauty in its incompletion—as long as I am complete within myself.
So maybe love is enough, and Sir Paul McCartney was right. It is love. Self-love. It is in this self-loving state where we have the power of choice. It is here when we are broken open and our world turns upside down, that our transformations can bring out the best in us to create the true, lasting partnership that our souls crave.
We begin here, learning to love all the parts that we don’t love.
Because if I can accept me, I can accept we.
And once we realize that we are capable of loving ourselves, humanity and humility become a you and I. It becomes a we.
Love yourself first.
As the saying goes, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”