Safe as Houses

I struggle with the concept of “deserve”. I can look at a situation having nothing to do with me and say objectively whether someone deserves something or not, but when it comes to me there are a million “yeah, but” protestations that intercept any idea of whether or not I myself do, good or bad. Actually, I take that back, I can pretty easily say if I deserve something bad. Like when I was a kid, the only thing I ever shoplifted was a tube of vanilla Lip Smackers. It fell out of my pocket onto the street (and was probably run over) the same day as I took it. I clearly deserved that. But the good stuff? That’s a lot harder to say.

To say it simply, the last several years had their share of difficulties. Work issues, the stress of moving a few states away and back again, money, friendships, and ultimately the end of a long-term relationship. That’s a biggie. When they end, if they were any kind of significant, there’s a particular kind of PTSD that accompanies the months that follow. Or more accurately, the relationships that follow. It’s fair to say you can come away doubting many things about yourself. Things from how you deal with conflict all the way through expressing affection. Depending on how it ends, every one of those items comes under scrutiny and in some cases, doubt.

But then, when it’s time, you meet someone new. Someone who is hopefully kind, empathetic, giving, and who if you’re lucky, gives amazing and perfectly-timed hugs. Your friends might say, “Good. You deserve to be happy”, and you probably do. But you don’t know exactly what that means, because you were a willing party to whatever crappy situation brought you to deserve something better in the first place, right? You participated in something that ended and sometimes, ended badly. But you’re no vegetable, you were there and you probably contributed to some of the way it all went down. The most important thing, aside from how quickly the next person comes along or what they bring, is what you bring. Lessons learned and applied. How can some things always be present and other things never happen again? Ah, ponderings.

I’ve recently started dating a new fella who is, by all indications so far, a particularly good egg. We had one of those very, very long walks last night during which secrets were shared, relationship histories summarized, and status put out there. During one intense  moment, I shared with him something I hadn’t mentioned to anyone but close friends about my previous relationship and it brought up some emotions I hadn’t let go of yet. Right when I was starting to get a lip quiver and feel insecure about it, he stopped our stride, turned me to him and enveloped me in the most soulful, non-judgmental embrace. I didn’t know how badly I needed that until it happened. He released me, saw my tears, and wiped them away with his thumbs as he held my face, then kissed my forehead. It was a sense of relief and safety I hadn’t felt in a long time, in one fluid motion. I think in that moment, I knew I both needed and deserved that.

Grappling with the concept is a journey and a process, and I suspect it’s a life-changing moment when you get past the initial feeling of arrogance of “I deserve”. It’s not an uppity thing, I’m realizing, it’s recognizing my worth. It’s having a standard of treatment and behavior and knowing what is tolerated and what isn’t. I let that go for a long time, maybe I never even really had it. But an amazing thing happens when it starts to materialize, it colors the entire picture plane. When treated well and with respect, I want to treat well and with respect. When raised up, I want to raise up. It’s a wonderful symbiosis that fills me with security and confidence instead of doubt and fear. It’s so obvious, and I don’t understand how I missed it all those years. Even if this gentleman isn’t The One, and it’s too early to tell if he is or not, there is a lesson unfolding here, an important one, that I am devouring ravenously. It’s been a while and is wisely slow-going, but I am calm and ready to put my hand into the hand of a man who doesn’t want to harm me, and he’s ready to put his hand in mine. I hope to be able to give it back in equal measure and see who we both become in the process.

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