I have been inching my way to this point of my life for the last five years, after my carefully constructed life came crashing down around me.
Like many women my age, I bought into the idea that I could be it all, have it all. My entire life I had heard that message.
Not only that I could, but that I should.
As a progressive woman with equal rights, I should be able to choose any profession I want and become the best in my field. Simultaneously, I should marry Prince Charming and create a perfect, beautiful little family. I should be able to balance home and work life with ease, looking skinny and beautiful in the process.
In fact, with the 24 hours allotted to me each day I should be able to juggle 8-10 hours in the corporate world working my way to the top, keeping my cell phone with me at all times to make sure no client needs slipped through the cracks; create the perfect crumb-free and happy home for my family; attend to everyone’s needs on a moment’s notice throughout the day happily setting my own aside; make it to the gym 5-6 days a week to be sure I maintained a thin figure; financially support those I loved while preparing for my own future; squeeze in hair, skin, and nail care to ensure I always looked young no matter my age; and somehow make sure my spirit remained filled and centered.
And I did. I balanced it all, though it was a tenuous balance. I spent my days racing from one need to the next trying to keep up, maintain control, and feed the illusion I had it all.
I was a successful modern day woman.
Until that moment five years ago when things came crashing down, I found myself in the midst of death, a divorce, a major career change, and the terminal illness of a close family member. Suddenly despite all the time and energy I had spent crafting this “perfect” life, it was all stripped away with no warning. With the crystal clarity that accompanies tragedy, I realized my ability to balance and control things had really all been an illusion, and in focusing on that, I had contributed to the loss of all I treasured. It was both the hardest and the best thing that ever happened to me.
Losing everything I valued started me on a path of self-discovery. For the last five years, I have been slowly and painfully uncovering what beliefs actually come from me and which are the creation of people who influenced my life, or worse, the product of believing the lies the world told me. It has taken years to strip away the layers of thoughts, feelings, illusions, and emotions to get to the point where I can rebuild from scratch with a solid, authentic foundation. As the months go on, I have carefully added layers back, sorting through what things in my life need to stay, and which need to go.
The process has been painful. It’s been filled with grief and goodbyes, hard conversations, difficult truths, and course corrections.
By far the hardest part has been making wise choices and learning to let my heart love again post-divorce.
Everyone feels heartache at one point or another. I am not the exception. I am not the first or the last to experience betrayal and the loss of a dream for what I thought married life would be.
Knowing that, however, didn’t make it any less painful.
I was determined to come through my divorce a better version of myself rather than a bitter one. But that took additional healing time. It would have been so much easier to build a bitter wall around my heart, to keep it closed off, never letting anyone in. But life behind a wall while safe, was lonely.
Soon after returning from the beach two years ago when I made the decision to try to live life brave instead of perfect, I met someone. A friend of a friend. He asked me out.
My instinct was to say no. I didn’t fully know yet who I was. I was highly aware I was a broken, less than perfect, battered version of myself. I was uncertain of my self-worth, unsure where I was headed in life, scarred, and scared. And yet I had just made a pact with myself to live life braver. To say yes more often. To not let fear rule each day. This was my chance to give more than lip service to the idea.
So I said yes. And in that one brave moment, my life forever changed.
Our road hasn’t always been smooth. It took a long time for him to knock my wall down completely. The baggage we each carry from life experiences clashes at times. We both have a tendency to become masons, quickly reconstructing our protective walls when conflicts arise.
But we both have a commitment to living authentically.
We have both dug into the mistakes of our past and reconciled them, doing the hard work to get healthy so we can be better partners to one another. In Kris, I have found a partner who not only supports and encourages me to be brave not perfect, but is willing to walk the path with me as my partner in crime. Daily he shows me there is less to fear when we face things together. And he reminds me often that while I am trying to shed my perfectionism, I am already perfect for him.