A few days after my birthday, a sweet, twenty-three-year-old friend asked newly thirty-two-year-old me if I could give her… or my younger self… one piece of dating advice, what would it be?
Without hesitation, I told her to just do whatever the fuck she wants.
And I hope she took it to heart, ‘cause I really, really meant it. And I really, really hope you hear me too.
Cause you cannot force lessons or growth; not on yourself, and certainly not onto others. You have to go through your process and you have a lot less say in that than the chick-flicks or self-help books would lead you to believe.
We don’t pick who we love, or who we are attracted to, or what attracts us to them. We learn by a series of successes and failures what does and doesn’t work for us. And over time, that alters our tastes and our desires. Ideally in a way that becomes progressively deeper, and meaningful, and healthier. But more often than not, your path won’t be linear. And you’ll instinctively fault yourself for not learning sooner.
Should have known by now, should have known better.
So you’ll pretend to care less than you do; pretend to be less invested than you are. Lie and say you know things won’t work out, when the truth is, you want them to. Forcing yourself into a box, and under the thumb of an ever-changing rule book of dating acumen. But after an (unspecified, unique-to-you number of) knockdown, drag outs, you’ll realize that the people who are meant to fit, will fit with the real you. Some learn this after the first or second round; some have to touch the fire a few (hundred) times before they see how hot it burns.
‘We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin.’
And it’ll hurt.
It’s raw and revealing, and sometimes, it’ll really, really hurt. But it means you’re in the process of repair.
So what then?
Be okay with being hurt. Pain is an intrinsic part of evolution. Don’t be ashamed of it. Just do whatever the fuck you want, and feel whatever the fuck you feel. Say what you need to say. Live the width of your happiness, and your anger, and your sorrow… and above all else, your love. Love unabashedly, unconditionally, authentically, and without fear.
If someone doesn’t appreciate you or is in any degree repelled by you loving them – then take comfort in knowing that person isn’t right for you. And yes, maybe you could have delayed that reality by concealing yourself, or playing the game… but eventually, you would be right back where you are now. The mask would itch, and you or he or she would rip it off.
Learning who and what and how to love is a messy, messy process.
But know that all the heartaches and mistakes, if learned from, will better your ability to love yourself and love others. And the better you learn and love yourself, the better able you will be to learn and love the right person.
So instead of focusing on how to make something work, or how to make someone care; and instead of worrying about this colloquial, imagined, full of shit, ticking-clock… focus rather on the ways that love, both good and bad, helps you grow. Experiencing unrequited, or toxic, or lost, or failed, or untimely love can shape you like no other. Positively, if you let it.
When things fall apart, take time to reflect on how that situation changed you for the better. Look at what you learned. All the qualities you’ll one day hope are emulated in the “right” person; all the boundaries you formed from the downfalls and douchebags.
Your rock bottom is so much lower now. Your threshold is so much greater. Look at how much better you know and accept yourself, for having gone on and gone through — and why? Because, without fear of foolishness – you felt whatever the fuck you felt, and did whatever the fuck you wanted to do.
And one more piece of my hard-earned, thirty-two-year-old wisdom…
Fuck whoever the fuck you wanna fuck, too.
Punky Moms has exciting news! We are creating a Radical Self-love membership community off of social media. My Radical Self launches in September 2019. For full details on how to join this amazing new space, please visit our info page here.