Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Why I'm Dating That Guy With Green Hair (or Love, the Receiving End)

" I guess it's true that love is all you wanted/ cause you're giving it away like it's extra change/ hoping it'll end up in his pocket/ but he leaves you out like a penny in the rain..." ~Taylor Swift (yes, Taylor Swift is in my philosophical reflective post; sorry not sorry.)

I started dating for the first time this past December.  The best word I can think of to describe it is: surprising. And no, that's not just because my boyfriend does things like dye his hair the color of the ocean or randomly buy me a HUGE bag of Reese's peanut butter eggs ( the middle of Lent. Luckily I didn't give up chocolate this year. Besides, it's the thought that counts, right?) It's because dating is nothing like I thought it would be. We go on dates sometimes and we love each other, but other than that I can't say it matches my expectations.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that sometimes dating makes me feel terribleNot my boyfriend. Dating.  My boyfriend is a kind and awesome person who tries very hard to make me happy.  That is why sometimes, I feel like a terrible person.  Because often, I am not happy at all and my non-happiness no longer affects only me.

I am grumpy, irrational, and negative. I am irresponsible.  I am impatient.  I am anxious.  I am afraid.

He worries about me.

Kyle wants me to stop being so hard on myself.  He knows I need to take care of myself and he tries to take care of me, too.  And it's honestly confusing for me.  I am still unused to the phone calls where I can talk about and work through my anxieties, the offer of hugs or even a shoulder to cry on after a long day, the amused toleration of my grumpiness, messy hair, and weird food choices (why am I randomly obsessed with applesauce? nobody knows.) Sure, I do nice things for him just like I try to do nice things for everybody, but why would he pick me? 

People tell you often that loving the right person will bring out the best in you, and I think it's true.  My boyfriend doubles my enthusiasm, my goofiness, and my sense of accomplishment.  I also think he brings out the worst in me, which isn't really something people warn you about.  The truth is, trying to communicate and cooperate with another human being on a daily basis pretty much puts all your flaws you might be vaguely aware of (or avoiding completely) under a microscope.  I have a lot of issues.  Sometimes I'm tempted to call things off between us just because I'm so discouraged by my imperfections and worry they will discourage him, too.  I want him to be happy and I feel like I get in the way even if he denies it.

It's in my nature. I take care of people.  I have five younger siblings.  I have a lot of friends who come to me for advice because they're the kind of introverts who don't do the whole "feelings" thing or because they trust my empathy.  I have students now who rely on me to teach them.  There are younger girls at my church who look up to me.  So I take care of people, dang it.  I took the "it is in giving that we receive" part of that Saint Francis prayer to heart and gave away love like extra change, hoping it'd come back in my direction eventually but assuming it was only fair if it didn't. And when I felt I hadn't earned it, I pushed it away because I couldn't love myself enough to accept it.  I feel sometimes like I owe the world the straight A's, the service in my parish, the things that got me labeled "good".  Good example, good girl, good job.  In my mind, my worth depended on these things that I did and how well I did them.

I have become someone I can be proud of, but not always someone I can love.   Pride does not mean loving yourself.  Pride and love are two entirely different things, and pride has me trying to win the world record for perfectionist people pleaser.  I question whether I deserve to be loved, supported, and forgiven so much and so often-- in spite of the fact that I have learned to love, support, and forgive others. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of "deserving" anything, actually.  I didn't even have to exist; my whole life is a gift to me, so my whole life should be a gift back to the world. I do this to such an extreme that I almost threw myself under the bus and didn't date Kyle because I didn't know if my family and friends would like him as much as I do.  I do this to such an extreme that I still feel that it is a challenge for me to believe God loves me.  Unless I'm perfect, and I never am. 

I have tried so hard to give love, that I forgot how to receive it.

Until I started falling for someone who only tried harder after every mistake he made, who forgave himself, who actually believed me when I told him how amazing he was.  He has grown so much in confidence and accomplished so much just in the short amount of time we've been dating.  And I find the way he embraces being human and imperfect so inspiring.  Even better, he loves me whether I think I deserve it or not, just like they always told me God does. He's helping me understand one of the major flaws in the way I imagine God, and helping me heal it. 

God is okay with me being weak and imperfect like a little child.  He is happy when I get it right, and he cries with me when I get it wrong, and he holds me either way.  God doesn't expect me to drain myself giving away love that I don't have.  He's returning his own love to me so that I have a home to come back to when it hurts to love others.  He is teaching me, with the help of an amazing person who cares about me, that love is incomplete until it is returned. 

The scariest, most vulnerable part of love isn't throwing yourself under the bus and letting yourself break for others.  It's letting them come inside your heart to help you put yourself back together when you're a mess.  It requires admitting you are not always the capable person you want to be.  And it requires forgiving yourself and letting yourself be happy anyway.

I've decided it's worth a try. 

The Forgiveness Myth

I do not enjoy forgiving people because it makes me feel like a doormat. I would honestly rather get all Carrie Underwood/Miranda Lambert up...