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  • Writer's pictureAshley Gray

VulnHERable Part 1

This is a series that's hard for me to start, but necessary. This is the part where I get honest about my life in hopes that my vulnerability is respected. It's like letting you see the pooch that hangs over my jeans that I strategically suck in, in front of others. So... I'm all out. Blemishes, bruises- everything.

Hard to love

Tonight I sat in a restaurant and cried. I fought back tears for four days all to end up softening my cheddar bay biscuit with salty drops. As my friend’s heart empathetically broke for mine I said words that were so honest that they scared me. “Why hasn’t this worked out for me? It’s beginning to feel like I’m too hard to love.” Good mascara is now streaked all down my face. I wore the good tube today and cried. My friend said something to me that once helped bring him peace. “Don’t confuse what you’re being offered with what you’re worth.” These words hit me like a mack truck traveling full speed. Being single is a far cry from tragedy; however, sharing yourself with people for it to implode, is hard. Last year I ended a relationship because it was toxic. Not necessarily because I wanted to or because I didn’t love him. I just realized loving him in that way was quite literally poisoning me. The depth of pain from that break up was unlike any other. I found myself saying constantly, “But we had plans.” There are days I want to tell the world the deeply complicated story of who we were but something in me still protects him.

Protecting him comes at a cost as many of my closest friends get random fragments of stories or lies better yet that I drag in like a dog drags in a random bird it managed to capture. The more I tell them the truth, the more difficult it is to accept the heaviness of the load of lies. BUT. I still protect him. Let’s be honest, I did it also because protecting him meant people asked me less questions. Or they didn’t assume my self esteem was low because I had endured that. Or that whole desire not to look bitter. I’m grateful that I’m actually not, but I was so concerned with not completely breaking that I didn’t allow all the soft spots to heal initially.

After six months, I tried dating again. Quickly fell into an familiar scene with an old drug of choice. He was a quick, exhilarating high and dark, cold, valley of a low. But when it was good… it was good. He was charming, charismatic and when he wore Black he redefined its beauty.  This had to be it, right? I learned very quickly that there are some folk that will never be careful with your stitches. I showed him the bruises and scratches that my heart had endured and asked him to simply be careful with me. Careful for him looked like reminding me that I shouldn’t have any expectation of him because we were not in a relationship when I had asked if our communication could be more consistent (i.e., don’t ghost). He said something very true in response, “You DO know you’re not my girlfriend, right?” I was very clear that he wasn’t mine. His disappearing act left no confusion. I mean he put Copperfield to shame. I didn’t know asking him to be courteous was reserved for relationships only. He wasn't for me. In so many ways.

But, who is? This isn’t a cry for help because something in life didn’t go my way but rather a spotlight on the fragility that comes with being created to love. Being a developer also doesn't help. Along with run down houses that have more character than any newly built property, I see beauty even in chaos. I always see potential. Perhaps I need to look for turn-key properties… I mean partners.

These situations made me question when and where I enter this thing called love. In all the 31.9 years that I’ve been a living thing, I have always know my mission. I am called to love. All ways. Always. Then life tears into you and all of a sudden your calling feels like a sparring partner. I’m not perfect. *shakes head thinking about all the things I coulda, shoulda, and woulda done differently* My anxiety (secret thought: fear of abandonment) has controlled many of my relationships with others. I know where I got it. I remember when it first dug it’s parasitic roots into my joy and planted a forest. My relationship with men always communicated to me (implicitly and sometimes explicitly) that I was not worthy of that which I asked for. Sometimes I think being robbed of a genuine closeness and security with a man in my childhood created fantasy like dreams of what they could be. That’s right, I created dreams of who and how they were supposed to be. Outside of two uncles and a great uncle (who functioned like a grandpa), I had no positive or safe relationships with men. This is important to mention because it’s a part of my truth. I can heal once I tell the truth to myself.

So. here’s. the. Truth. I ask God what I’m supposed to be learning from this. Perhaps God is answering that by saying I need to understand the love I already have. Or. I’m not giving God enough credit for how much God loves me. Perhaps partnership ain’t for me, right now. Perhaps, that need to love begins first by loving myself so much that accepting a lesser offering from a partner wouldn’t be acceptable. I.D.K. I DO know I’m about to go to church, sit outside in the trees, or go watch water, or climb a mountain or go to Italy. That’s what people do in the movies when they are asking existential questions like these. Perhaps finding love ain’t about anybody else but finding me. I know she’s worth the journey.

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