I haven’t written since coming home from England and Germany where I spent time with my extended family, some of whom I’d never met. I’ve had a lot rolling around in my mind about the trip. How much I loved the travel itself. How much I enjoyed being in the homes of my aunts and uncles who cared for me just as they would their own kids. How strange it was to be around so many people who look so much like me. How much I loved learning about my mom and dad from people who’ve known them much longer than I have. It was an incredible trip.
What surprised me on this trip was that I felt alone at times even though I was surrounded by people I love and who love me. I realized that, for me, companionship isn’t just about being loved. It’s about being known too. Over time, I know that I will develop relationships with my extended family where I know them and am known by them. The trip gave me that certainty, and I’m so grateful for what I know will happen between and among us. But the experience with my family – spending day and night with dozens of people who would do anything for me but still feeling lonely – hit home for me how much I need to be known in order to feel genuinely loved.
That’s a hard thing. It’s hard for me to allow myself to be known. It seems weird to type those words on something I’m going to post publicly, but the reality is that the self that comes through on this blog is as artificial as the image I create for myself on Facebook. It’s not a complete picture of who I am or what’s happening in my life. You see the bits and pieces that I choose for you to see.
A truth about me is that I’m slow to enter relationships where I allow myself to be known. I’m slow because I’m fearful that people won’t like what they see or that they’ll take all the things I don’t like about myself and wrap them up and give them back to me as all the reasons why they don’t, won’t or can’t care for me. I have reason to be fearful. That’s happened a few times in my life in friendships and relationships. With each experience, I have wondered if I can be brave enough to try again.
But I think I found a little courage today. I saw a movie called The Way, Way Back. It’s a beautiful story about the power of one person’s belief in another. I laughed and cried and responded, almost physically, to what was happening on the screen. And I realized that there is nothing more beautiful than two people bringing out the very best in one another by loving one another as they are. They didn’t enter the relationship trying to change one another. They just loved and believed, and through that love and unwavering encouragement, the changes happened.
I’ve been isolating myself a bit. I’ve been trying to change all the things about myself that I don’t love. Generally, that’s a good thing. It’s good for me to lose weight and work on my speed and take dance lessons and be more adventurous in travel and put myself in environments where I don’t know people and where I have to adapt myself to an uncomfortable situation. Those are all good things. But I’m wrong to think that I need to fix myself before I can let another person see who I am. If I’m trying to prepare and present a “better” version of myself to the next person, then I’m going to feel lonely because they won’t know me as I really am. But if I am willing to step out and love and be loved as I am and make those and other changes with the help of someone who wants to love me through them, then I can become a better or even best version of myself and be known. I want those two things for myself, and I want to offer those two things to someone else. Obviously, I can’t do that in isolation.
I am good – really good – at believing in other people and offering them unwavering love and encouragement. I think I’m ready to look for someone who will offer the same to me. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop the efforts I’ve been making in this period of isolation. I like what I’ve been doing. I’m back in the 120s in terms of weight. I am running and biking faster than I ever have as an adult. I’ve learned how to two-step and swing. I’m going to Africa of all places later this year. These are all good changes that I’ve made. But I’m ready to step out of isolation, even though stepping out is a bit scary.
I will proceed cautiously, trusting my own reservations if I have them. But I want in my life the beauty that I saw on the screen. I believe in it. And if I tell you that I don’t believe in it, know that I’m lying to you out of my own fears. Because I do.