When my boyfriend and I first moved into our apartment in Hawai'i, I was in completely over my head. I was coming off a seven year relationship with New York City where I was used to cooking for one, drinking for two, and everything I ever wanted was always juuust out of my reach.
Moving in with Johnny -- a man I fell in love with basically yesterday -- and pooling our money together for a weekly grocery trip, monthly rent, and insanely high utility bills, overwhelmed me (to put it lightly). Suddenly, I felt like I had to report every expense, every thought, every idea to him because everything was now being shared. It wasn't just my bathroom to dirty up with excess foundation powder and toothpaste spots on the mirror -- I now had to share all my private spaces with someone else.
It looked like a complete recipe for disaster from where I was standing.
So I got whiny.
"I want a boyfriend, not a husband. Seriously, this living together shit is for the birds. I didn't sign up for a marriage!"
That's what I told Johnny one month -- yes, one month -- into our 12 month lease. I was throwing a temper tantrum and I was not backing down. I want a boyfriend! A boyfriend who I can mess around with! Make stupid decisions! Be crazy! Ahhhhhh like all that crazy stuff! Let's be crazy! Let's be unhealthy! Let's be reckless!
A shining moment in my behavioral history.
After many intense discussions and some major soul-searching on my part -- including many days where I left to walk the beach at 6:00 a.m. before Johnny got up -- I allowed myself to face my fears and to come to the following conclusion.
Truth be told, I've had enough boyfriends.
Oh, I've had all the boyfriends I'll ever need. I've had my fair share of wounded boys, and depressed boys, and inconsiderate boys, and confused boys, and lazy boys, and rich boys, and insecure boys. That's what they've been. Boys. But they felt safe to me because they were unstable. I never had to worry that any of them were in it for the long haul, and that enabled me to be non-committal and throw lots of very indulgent pity parties.
Now, I'm dating a man. Hello, fear. Hello, possibility of a future. Hello, instinct to run far, far away.
I sit down on the sand and look out into the ocean, trying not to hyperventilate at my very unwanted realization.
I say I didn't sign up for a husband, but as I begin to assess the situation, it feels fair to say that I actually didn't sign up for anything. I boarded a plane to Honolulu last August planning on finding myself, spending time alone, recovering, healing.
The minute I had time for some inner work, and I began to let go of some of my baggage and self-hatred, I had a little bit of room to let love in. I didn't really ask for it, but I guess someone upstairs decided that I was ready. So, love just happened to be presented in the form of a beautiful, hilarious, hard-working man from Portland named Johnny.
And today at the beach, I hesitantly admit to myself that perhaps it's the hanging around with boys that's actually for the birds.
Because Johnny? He's a man.
And it seems I haven't been ready for him until now. Not until I had time to appreciate the wholeness of myself. Not until I really accepted that I do not need a man to complete me. I'm no longer in the market for a boy toy, because if I'm going to be spending a significant amount of time with someone, I want him to be so much more than what I've always settled for.
I want, and deserve, and crave, a man who is sure of himself, but not cocky. A man who is secure in his own body, but not arrogant. A man who has a sense of humor, but does not use it to mock me. A man who compliments my beauty and talent, but isn't cheesy about it. A man who can take care of himself, but is willing to let me help sometimes. A man who can hold a conversation with anyone, but also come home and laugh about the idiocy of tourists at work. A man who can make me laugh so hard I spit up my coffee, but can also fight back when I attack him with hormonal fits of PMS and sugar withdrawal.
And I found him.
So here I am, dating the man who cries. The man who stands in his underwear and his socks and plays the one song on the ukelele that he knows over, and over, and over, and over again. The man who is covered in tattoos, which just absolutely thrills my Christian conservative grandmother.
I'm dating the man who isn't afraid of love, my PMS (most of the time), or spicy food. I'm dating the man who likes to dry the dishes, must have soft Egyptian cotton sheets, and never forgets water and a camera when we go hiking even if I do.
He doesn't need me to complete him. I don't need him to complete me. And that's why it works.
And because I'm now dating a fellow adult, (I know, crazy concept), I accept that it's totally okay when our relationship is serious, or rocky, or sensible at times. Sometimes it's about bills, groceries, and paychecks; sometimes it's about taking the day off to spend all of Sunday on a boat. Sometimes it's about who forgot to put gas in the car; sometimes it's about lying in bed all day watching The Office and gently bantering about who will go pick up the takeout this time.
And I don't know that it's supposed to be anything different than that right now. Because at the end of the day? No, I didn't sign up for a husband. I actually didn't sign up for anything when I boarded that plane to Honolulu.
But what I got, without signing anything, is exactly what I wanted even if I didn't realize it until I was already living it. Like they always say, (who's "they" anyway? and why are they always right?), love will come when you least expect it. Or, what I've learned, is that it will come when we finally give up our ancient detrimental habits.
Because finding love is like shedding skin. We can't begin to embrace the new opportunities if we haven't completed the process of shedding those old habits. No one can do it for us -- we just have to do the work on our own and let things go when we're ready. Shedding that old skin makes us extremely vulnerable, but I find that that's when the best things really present themselves to us.
I don't think that any of us ever really sign up for what life hands us. All I know is that I did take the time to shed my fears and my self-hatred and embrace the most authentic version of me, even when it was painful. And because of that, I got Johnny. And I wouldn't change that for the world.