Three weeks before the freak accident that left me visually impaired I ended a relationship with a person I loved. I got hurt, before I got blinded. Unfortunately I fell in love with someone who was closed off and was never capable of loving me. A story that now, as I look back, sounded familiar and was part of my pattern: the pattern of dating unavailable men.
For almost two years he played the role of the ambivalent male, vacillating from being in and out of the relationship. And for maybe the first, or second time, I walked away finally knowing that somehow I deserved better. It was a conversation that started when I decided to divorce. The conversation that you have when you know you can be happier elsewhere and deserve more, even if it hurts right now. Prior to the accident I had made a decision to wholly be open to love. I wanted that to remain true after love kicked me in the ass and the accident whacked out my central vision.
So, at the time I was grieving the loss of my sight, I was grieving the loss of a person I loved. And all that love and all that loss became tied up together in a knot that could not be untied. It somewhat magnified the grieving, amplified the pain, turned up the volume on the "your life has changed drastically" message so loud I had to deal with it, continually.
During the eight months after the accident when I was single and not dating I decided to read a little about love. I was not really sure I understood it, how to get it or now, disabled, if it was even a possibility for me. One book I read was Elizabeth Gilbert's book Committed: A Love Story. In the book she talks about the need for companionship as a way to share your experiences and to weave a shared history with another person. That idea, that dream, of having someone beside you to share in your story and to witness you and your life is compelling. It is the question of if a tree falls in the woods when no one is around, does it make a sound? Similarly, do the experiences and stories in our life have meaning if they are not witnessed or shared? What I knew after reading the book was that private intimacy and companionship was something I would like to have in my life. But that meant finding someone who can listen to your story, tell theirs openly and be willing to lose a part of their independence to commit to the interwoven nature of creating a shared journey.
I decided, at that point, to continue my journey, shedding those that were not willing or able to share my story and enrich my life in some way. I also realized that with every relationship I made better choices in partners and left those in which I was unhappy sooner. I decided that it was important, especially in my new normal of disability to choose myself first. To not settle for something that was less than what I deserved or wanted. I was no longer willing, as I had done before, to live off of someone's crumbs. I wanted the full banquet.
I also threw out, once and for all, my screening list of questions based on past relationships. You know, that list that it seems every woman over 35 and single has concocted. A list that becomes so long that no one is coming out the other end of the screening. I, before attempting to date again, came up with the four things I really needed to know:
• Do you love yourself and have the capacity to give and receive love?
• Can you communicate your needs, wants, fears, hopes and dreams?
• Do you know yourself and can you be real and authentic in a relationship?
• Can you make a commitment and stick with it in rough times?
Four things. That was it. That was everything of importance. The rest was irrelevant. I did not have "Would you be with a person that is legally blind?" as a question. Those men would not take the time to get to know me and we would not even get to the important questions. That was their loss. Armed with a new clarity that I was doing better in relationships, was happy being alone and was still open to love, plus the four questions, I was ready to date again.
After my accident I was drawing runes and I picked the rune that focused on a time of waiting. So, I waited and, in the meantime, was happy being with myself, family and friends. It was a kind of freedom to be OK without a partner and to know it had nothing to do with my worth or my ability to love. I have discovered that I do know how to love and love fully.
The reason I can now love fully is because I know myself, love myself and can keep my sense of self and identity while in a relationship. I also know how to give of myself and recently, have learned how to receive. In the past few years I have shifted my mindset to acknowledge that I myself as my authentic self am lovable and I do not have to try so hard to make men stay. It has been a work in progress to get to the place where I can truly say that I am whole and authentic ad I bring all that to the table.
And this is the best of me. The one that can let go and love myself and feel deserving of love in my disabled but whole state. And the worst of me is the woman that doubts anyone would want to be in the driver seat (literally) sharing my roller coaster ride of a life. But the best of me is winning the battles and will win the war.
An excerpt from my manuscript: Finding the Light Switch in the Dark
Follow Lisabeth Saunders Medlock, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lisabethmedlock