I don’t remember when it all started but I do remember in middle school, just wanting to be noticed. What is it about being noticed that has so much power? It’s like someone verifying your existence. But why do we need that verification? Perhaps in a sea of other preteens, I wished to be seen. I wished that me, my unique and weird self would be seen and loved. Now did I need that because I wasn’t getting a ton of attention at home? Or did I need that because all preteens need that? I don’t know, but that is the earliest memory I have of craving love.
After being noticed I wanted to be liked. I wanted someone to notice me, my unique self, and then I wanted them to like me. What a bitch it is to seek others approval, yet most everyone does it at some point. I started off needing my parents approval, then from my friends at school and then my teachers, counselors and even strangers. It’s so much easier when people like (or approve of) your words, your thoughts and your actions. If everyone likes and approves of you, who challenges you? Back then it felt like those who truly challenged me, didn’t like me, so I would stay clear of them. I only wanted to be liked, to be loved, I had no room for disapproval in my life.
Once I was liked by someone I wished to be accepted and understood. I wanted those who knew me to see it all, like it all, understood the way I tick and accept me exactly as I am. With my best girl friends this was easy most of the time. Little girls growing up together, tend to think alike, be alike, even dress alike and act alike. All the rubbing off onto each other paves the way to be accepted and understood by these close friends. So i found love in the space between me and my friends.
Now that I had experienced what it was like to be seen, and liked, and understood, and accepted, i was exposed to the desire to have this in a partner. I don’t know why, but it was the thing to do. I don’t know where I got the idea (maybe from movies) or how in the world it became so powerful but my ideas of what love was were expanding, and I had yet to feel it this way, so naturally, the next step in experiencing this thing called love was to find a partner to experience it with.
This is when love got harder. Not only did I need to be noticed, liked understood and accepted, I had to notice, like, understand and accept someone else exactly as they are. This was so easy to do with my girlfriends. I could see their entire lives, I knew everything, making it so easy for us to understand each other’s words, thoughts and actions. But with someone new, you don’t really get to dive in the same way as with childhood friends. You have to start sharing your story but it’s scary to be so vulnerable with a new person. What if he doesn’t like this? Or understand that? Just the thought of not being accepted when I put myself out there brought in a hint of shame. How did that come to be? Why in THIS moment is it so important for THIS person to understand and accept me? I gave so much power to these moments and the outcome was always only one of two: we both put some stuff out there and were seen, liked, accepted and understood for a while or… something, somewhere in the process was not seen, not liked, not accepted or not understood so I’d quit putting my energy into it. Regardless of whichever way it went, none of these partnerships ever lasted very long but I never ceased to keep searching for a partner that I could have all these gifts with and fully surrender into.
I don’t know why this is such a common thing for so many people, women especially. To wish to seek and find “the” person that will fulfill us. At what point were we programmed to think that we aren’t full without this? What about the people who don’t search for this? Why do we think it’s sad if they always live alone, if they never have kids or a partner in their lives? Perhaps their lives are absent of this particular experience but there are many experiences I myself have not been through. Why does THIS one seem to weigh much more than other common desirable experiences. Growing up, I think the subject came up more than college or my future did. But why? As if heartache is needed to go on with my life, as if disappointment in others really inspires me to keep going, as if I can’t focus on other things until I have this thing.
Along the way, I’d have long moments in need of solitude. What I was looking for in others, I never found, and at times I’d feel that I was the only one who could truly show up for me and I honored that. But before too long, I’d always witness a beautiful partnership and choose to continue my search. This pattern went on for years with no partnership ever sticking for more than a few months at a time. I felt complicated, and misunderstood. I was so sick of missing my mark with all these tryouts so I gave up. I surrendered, and was no longer searching, in fact I was fed up with the thought of a partner all together. So of course, that’s when “he” walked into my life. He noticed me right away, he liked me from the start, he accepted my weirdness as it came up and he always tried his hardest to understand me. I noticed that he noticed, I liked him from the start, I accepted all the weird things about him and I always found a way to understand him. I was 25, and I was finally able to end the search and surrender into safe, secure, trustworthily contentment. Unconditional love. It was pure bliss. I was me, he was him, and it was perfect.
Because I had finally filled that hole that felt like a missing piece, I no longer felt like I was missing out on something that really mattered to me. So for years I rested in complete contentment, happiness and freedom to just be me. Everything that had happened in my life up until this point felt absolutely perfect. Confirming those programmed beliefs that heartache is a necessary experience, disappointment in others never stomped out my hope, and now that I have THIS thing, I can focus on other things. So, I found another hole to fill, another missing piece. This piece was my purpose (did I seriously need a partner before I could address something so fucking important?! I guess I did) and it was more than just MY purpose, it was OUR purpose. So I started posing questions out into the universe and began a new journey within my journey.
The answers I received while on my quest for purpose were irritating at first. “The answer is inside you”, “you already have the knowledge you need”, “look within”, “there’s nothing to search for, you already have it”. Like a broken record all of these answers rolling around in my head day in and day out. So I discovered ways to look within and that’s where I found the REAL hole. I hadn’t given myself me, my love, my energy, my power, my acceptance or my compassion, none of it… and it left a big gaping hole inside me. This hole was so much bigger than the missing partner hole, I think that maybe that was just a divot on the surface caused by the giant underground cave that was below. How is it that this so very important piece of myself has been overlooked for so long and NO ONE had ever taught me about it? How is this not important enough to teach in school?! I remember at the time knowing that I could have never come to this place in my life had I not had that amazing partner in my life. I knew that without him filling that space, I could have never seen these all too important things that need my attention below. Without him, I’d still be on the surface trying to fill the only hole I knew existed.
Right away, I started filling in the cave. I gave myself me, my time, my energy, and started listening to my heart. I gave myself love. I stopped judging myself so harshly and replaced the judgement with acceptance and compassion. Before long, it wasn’t a gaping hole anymore. The more time, energy, and self love, I put into the hole, the fuller it got. I started smashing so much into that hole that it started over flowing and even pushing the partner hole on the surface up and out of existence. Now, he wasn’t filling a hole anymore, he was sitting on top of where the hole used to be. He still noticed me, he still loved me, he still understood me and accepted every crazy part of me, but now, while I did still notice him, love him, accept him and understand him, I didn’t need a partner to fill that need for me anymore. I never really did but the illusion was there and I still believed in it until now.
That’s when I made the most difficult decision that I’ve ever made. I decided to leave my beautiful, perfect partner that noticed me, loved me with all of his heart, understood me and accepted all of me. So now, it’s just me and my (supposedly) whole self. I’m finding how lonely it can be as I realize how dependent I was on him to fill other little holes like my need for attention and approval. As time goes on, being alone is cultivating a sensitivity to things I haven’t been aware of in the past. I am able to see more of myself, I am able to put more faith in myself, and with all of this new awareness, I’m able to love even more of myself. I’ve replaced searching with seeing, seeking with creating, and I know now that, everything I need, really is, within me.
Now I see that love isn’t something to be found. If you seek it, you won’t find it. If you force it, you won’t have it. And if you curse it, you become hardened against it. Your love, isn’t in other people. Your love isn’t in things. Your love is deep within the depths of your soul and it doesn’t need a thing, except for you to “see” it.
I’ve realized I don’t need a partner as much as I need connections. Connections that integrate with all of me instead of filling in holes I haven’t filled myself. Connections that expand the surface area of my being, challenging me and supporting me as I grow bigger than I ever imagined I could be.