I'm not sure on which date I clicked Facebook's "like" button for Word Porn, but I can assure you that it was a happy day. Just as Earth Porn stimulates my eyes with tantalizing physical imagery from our magical world, so, too, does Word Porn arouse my brain from time to time with evocative turns of phrase. They're not all gems, but the good ones stick hard -- and today's stopped me in my tracks. It's a brief, unattributed quote that I googled and found credited to Marc Hack, whomever that is. And it goes a little something like this:
"Let someone love you just the way you are – as flawed as you might be, as unattractive as you sometimes feel, and as unaccomplished as you think you are. To believe that you must hide all the parts of you that are broken, out of fear that someone else is incapable of loving what is less than perfect, is to believe that sunlight is incapable of entering a broken window and illuminating a dark room."
My two honorary brothers and I have an ongoing debate on relating to others post-divorce, especially in a dating sense. Brother One's theory is that post-divorce, you're "broken" for a couple of years -- incapable of real connection while necessarily engaged in a process of self-rediscovery that has no room for an Other. Brother Two is a bit more partner-bent, like I am, yet the notions of healing and emotional unavailability restricting partnership also resonate with him. We're going through our life changes together, and I wouldn't trade their kinship with me for the world. Their counsel is invaluable, and I tend to heed it, even as I would get angry every time one would refer himself as "damaged" or "broken," and even as I wondered why this purgatory was necessary. I tried living "their" way. It's possible to date -- "date" -- among those conditions. And after a significant amount of time spent entirely alone, and then yet more time testing the dating waters, I wondered if they might be right. Connection didn't seem possible. Maybe I required more healing time. Maybe I needed to love myself more. Maybe I needed just to be alone.
And all of those maybes? They're right, to some extent, just as my friend is right to call himself "damaged" or even "broken." It's not an ideal place from which to attain partnership, on the face of it. There are so many questions, and there is so much instability, and don't even get me started on the fear factor: fear of the unknown, fear of missing out, fear of heartbreak, fear of being alone, fear of being with someone, fear of the "define the relationship" conversations, fear, fear, fear. I know it, because I've felt it all.
And that's where that Word Porn quote today and my life collided head-on.
I know that I have a giant heart, and I know that I can give a lot of love from it. But that's been where my "knowns" have stopped, really. Am I lovable? Can I receive love? Am I broken? Does it matter? Am I afraid (yes) and of what (kind of everything) and so ... then what ... ? Do I need to heal (yes, always, unending), and do I need to turn inside myself to do that (sometimes), and do I even know who I am (pretty much) and what I want from myself, let alone others?
I started answering those questions in my head, and they begat more questions, and they brought me to the realization of something I've been fighting for quite a long time now, perhaps for longer than I'd even like to admit: the ultimate rhetorical question, "so what?"
So what? So what if I am broken, and so what if I'm scared to death to be starting part of my life over again, and so what if I don't know everything?
That's huge, let me repeat that: so what if I don't know everything.
I'm too smart for my own good, sometimes. I like predictability and order. I like knowns -- tangibles -- and, frankly, carefree as I can be at times, I crave stability, sometimes badly. And the instant that an Other entered that equation, well, the world became less predictable. The waiting game began for who's feeling what when and what that all means ... and then I wonder why I'm afraid. That fear of "what next" -- waiting for the other shoe to drop -- has been significant for me. And I guess that's to be expected after how my life unfolded these past few years. I doubt that ever will go away fully.
What this period of internal conflict and self-questioning did for me is something Really Good and something Really Bad.
On the Really Good side, it made me look at myself, hard. (Note that I'm not talking about looking at someone else here -- just at myself.) What do I value in me? What do I need someone else to value in me? How do I want to live, internally and externally? What do I want to accomplish, personally, professionally, in a relationship, etc.? Am I healing okay? What sets me back, and what makes me feel better? I didn't have to answer all of those questions, but I had to ask them. I had to think about them. And, like my one brother surmised, that took about two years. When I realized that today, I'm not sure whether my smile or my tears were bigger -- this brother, he knows some things about Life.
On the Really Bad side, I realized something, just as I'm emerging from my purgatory in some ways more confident while at once more fragile than ever: I had stopped looking at people -- I mean, really looking at people. I have no doubt that averting my eyes, literally and metaphorically, was a two-fold self-protective measure: one, I had long ago stopped trusting what my eyes saw, for they truly had deceived me; and two, I didn't want to look because I didn't want to plug back into the world. I didn't want to connect, because God forbid someone love me again. I wasn't sure that I'd be able to receive it or even that I'd know what that feeling was. I wasn't sure I wanted to know what that feeling was. I wasn't sure that I was ready for it, much less deserved it with all of my jagged broken pieces sticking out. I was, in short, afraid.
And when we're afraid, what do we do? We close our eyes.
But over the past couple of weeks, I think I finally got tired of being afraid.
The fact of the matter is that we're all flawed, somehow. And when we go through big life changes, like divorce, it is pretty easy to see ourselves as broken in some way, perhaps even irreparably so, whether for two years or forever. But if we spend so much time wondering "what if" and "what next" and "what now" -- and if we hide from all of those big questions -- well, then we'll never be unafraid. We'll never pick up the lovable pieces from whatever broke. I don't care so much about the broken parts any more as much as I care about the mending. And that's not something that can be done without looking at the life in front of me and wondering what I want to make of it -- looking, really looking, with eyes wide open, most especially at the people who are there on the other side of that journey back to my self that was there all along.
Sitting on my deck the other night and looking out at nature, I had some big questions on my mind and no answers at hand when I had this epiphany: perhaps distilling things to their simplest form really is the way to live. Watching a doe nuzzle her mama, it struck me that loving connection really is simpler than we often make it out to be amid all of our excuses about why it may not work. In reality, if we're not here to love and be loved, even amid our brokenness, I don't know why we're here at all.
With that awakening, I feel like I just emerged into the world again, perhaps a bit weak in the knees and uncertain, but, without question, mending, loving, lovable, and determined to be unafraid, welcoming that light back into eyes that I'd like to think retained their mischievous sparkle even behind their (un)closed lids.