L is for the way you look at me
O is for the only one I see
V is very, very extraordinary
E is even more than anyone that you adore can
~recorded by Nat King Cole in 1965, composed by Bert Kaempfert, lyrics by Milt Gabler.

Last year in my annual New Year’s post, I was still settling into a considerable life change.

A year later, I am still settling. I think about houses or wine maturing with age; one doesn’t settle into a new place or way of existence in a day, a month, six months. For whatever reason, I tend to think that I’m exempt from nature’s timeline. Because that has been my life experience – step-in and step-up whatever the cost. Begin ballet training about six years too late but start managing a studio and company by age 19. Finish high school a year early. Take the GRE’s without studying. Move to New York City with 7 days notice. Start dating someone within a week of moving to Pennsylvania. Run a 5k without having run at all in the previous six months. By giving a little extra effort, I think I can bypass everyone else. Well, bypassing isn’t really an option. Maybe I am able to separate myself mentally from uncomfortable experiences, but when I do that I pass on a lot of good things, too.

I love the rush of achievement, of betting on myself…hence the adrenal fatigue I wrote about last New Year’s. One doctor even termed it “cortisol (adrenaline) addiction/abuse”. All of these challenges/pseudo accomplishments serve as a distraction from my knowing myself and those around me. None of these accomplishments required commitment or endurance. I just went for it. You can call it boldness or ignorance, or a mix of both. It makes a tasty cocktail with gin. I have not built any muscle (mental, financial, physical, or spiritual) strength or memory for long-term relationships or goals.

Like many people, it wasn’t until a health issue manifested that I really considered my lifestyle management. Like many people, I discovered a long, tangled mess of roots in identifying the source of the issue. It has been a complicated year, folks.

I, of course, made substantial dietary changes which helped a lot. But it didn’t change everything.

In the middle of a relationship crisis, it suddenly became clear to me: I treat love as an obligatory transaction. That realization was very hard to acknowledge and necessitated a lot of apologies. But, I saw how clearly my life experiences primed me to view love as something to go without. Love gets in the way of things. Love requires you to slow down, pause, look farther down the road, consider things beyond your immediate circumstances. For a lot of reasons, I never felt like the option(s) were available to me to do that.

In reading and listening to resources from Shiloh Place Ministries, I heard a phrase I’d never encountered before: submitting to love. Yes, love is a choice. We choose to surrender to letting people into our lives. We choose to let people (and God) see us for who we really are. We choose to let others bless us. We choose to accommodate abuse. We choose to enable addictive behaviors.

This is what I’ve struggled with my whole life ever since a family member’s year-long health crisis when I was four years old: needing others and being needed. Throw in a couple incidents of gun violence in my teens and early twenties and you get the picture. I sought escape, which the rush of achievement temporarily provided. Since I lacked the capacity to maintain boundaries within relationships and needs, I chose to mostly bypass relationships (and love). I survived on the support of family and two or three external relationships which I’m sure has been draining for those very loyal people.

My life feels so small compared to previously; I now feel I’m seeing myself under a microscope and it is uncomfortable. It is also liberating and exciting. There is joyful hope. After some very hard conversations, there is peace.

2017: love for myself, others, my body.

photo taken at Grounds Central Station in Old Town Manassas during holiday travels.

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