I was standing at the local lumber yard the other day waiting to order a chopped up 1 x 4 and could not ignore the heightening sense of insecurity. It wasn’t the upcoming lumber order; I don’t think anyone thought I worked in construction. It was just me. Standing there. A single woman embarking on her own household project to build some shelves.
I have been wading around lately in a lot of emotions only now seeing the light of day after my breakup. Lots of anger, at my ex, but also at myself for staying in a relationship that had stopped being kind to me years before. And lots of inspecting. A memory will come up or a thought and I will stop and say, “well that’s interesting. I am feeling really pissed right now when I think about that. I wonder why…” or “That comment reminds me of the way I felt when I was little. What is that about?” It is why I feel so strongly about holding off on starting to date again. This feels like the meat of it. The work that hopefully will help guide me toward a healthier relationship in the future.
Which takes us back to the lumber yard. Although my fiercely independent self is slightly ashamed to admit it, there was something about being in a relationship that made me feel complete. It made me feel enough. Whole. Which is likely why I stayed for as long as I did. Because to let go of that relationship meant to let go of my wholeness. This might explain why there was always an unease at being single in the past. A rush to find someone and be okay. Even if I was alone in line, there was someone at home and that was pacifying.
The trauma of this breakup has been a gift, really. It has allowed me to see how much of myself was hiding behind my skirt, afraid to come out and take up space. And finally when I was not performing for the sake of peace in the home, or shrinking to fit into the miniature space left over for me in the relationship, I got a glimpse at what had been waiting. And she is awesome.
I have a photo on my fridge of me from my second grade photo day. It reminds me how much of that second grader is still inside me and still waiting for the safety and assurance that didn’t come when I was young. I think somewhere along the line I never learned that I was wonderful, just as I was. The message got skewed and my little brain got only, “perform and be rewarded” or “you’re dramatic and often too much, but sometimes great.”
The shipwreck of my former relationship continues to offer up lots of knowledge amidst the wreckage. And it’s helpful to stay mindful of the often untrue messages written within. For example, “You don’t know HOW to build shelves.” And the feeling that if ONLY I was dating someone he would be doing this. But the shelves were measured, built and painted, by my two hands alone. They hold my tea and spices and a growing sense that I am bigger than the little box I have tried to fit myself in to qualify as girlfriend material. That there is a beautiful, welcoming world out there for all of me.