Unexpected Lessons in Love
Lately what I have learned about myself in relationships and love has come from watching and observing my children. They are holding up mirrors for me to see my strengths and challenges in how I approach love. I don’t know if it’s because of what they have seen, or just innately being my children, no matter how far they move from me in the emotional sense, are still carrying parts of me that have been ingrained in their souls and built who they are. I’m witnessing the tables turning and watching them become the ones I learn from in certain aspects of life regardless of their age. They hold wisdom in different forms that I can gain if I listen and pay close attention.
My earliest and longest stint in education was as a classroom teacher in an elementary school that within a few months felt like home and more familiar than any place I had ever worked in before. It was the people but it was also the energy and the culture and soul that everyone gave off. Which is not always the case in every school I have been in since working in a position that serves my entire district. Adding to that significance in my life, my children also came to school in the same building that I worked in for six years. One year I had the complex job of being my son’s math teacher. I think now there are ethical considerations in that, but at the time he was an accelerated math student and I was the only accelerated math teacher, so it happened and we rolled with it.
He may have been an accelerated math student, but his love was of reading and books not mathematics. So he often did one of two things in my class, sneak books and read them inside the desk while I taught math or watched the girl he had his first crush on. It was fascinating to watch this interest unfold in front of me. The challenge was that, just like I knew my son, I also paid close attention to the girl and how she interacted with him. It was evident to me, she was too mature and cerebral for any third grade boys and literally had no interest in them whatsoever.
My son however, did not get this clearly or from my gentle hints that he should focus on other things. That was only an hour of his day in an assigned seat where his only chance to chat with her would be if they met at the pencil sharpener since their tables were at opposite ends of the class. Neither happened often so I felt my son, who didn’t play it cool or hide his emotions from others, was safe from heartbreak.
Then we had a school dance for 3rd through 5th grades. This was the moment I understood the level of commitment my baby had to the people he cared for and one day would love. He got as fresh as he could for this dance because he was told by the girl that she would be coming with her brother. As the teacher I was manning the ticket station and greeting families and kids as they entered. I asked my son to stay with me, but he decided to park himself outside the entrance to the all purpose room, and wait for her to come. He stood there for almost 40 minutes just waiting. I would watch as he got excited when a car would come and then sigh in deflation when she wasn’t the girl that stepped out. He was determined that he would see her, they would hang out for the evening and that this was real.
She never showed up. And throughout the entire night, he was visibly deflated and sullen. How do you tell a young boy that the relationship he thinks he has with a girl might possibly be entirely in his own mind when you know exactly what he's doing, because you did it more than once in your immature ideas of love and even in mature ideas of situationships? I know that heartbreak well. Something smacks you in the face when you realize the picture in your mind is just an image and not your reality. It's a harsh truth to swallow and make peace with.
What I realize as I reflect on the story is that he created a dynamic that he truly believed existed and moved and made decisions around that. They never spoke, they didn’t have common friends, he didn’t know anything about her but her name and who her siblings were because they were also in the school. Truthfully, as her teacher I knew much more about who she was and what her interests were than he did. That whole idea may be not too far from the way women and men respond to situationships.
We create a reality in our minds of something tangible and real that makes sense and has value and a significant place in our lives. When in reality, the other person, like his little girl crush, is busy being with others and thinking about anything but us. We are so enamored by the illusion we miss what is staring us in the face including all the key missing pieces.
No, I have never met his friends.
No, he doesn’t express his feelings for me.
No, his family doesn’t even know I exist.
No, his social media has no mention of me.
But somehow I still believe we are both in this relationship.
Meanwhile, you are actually just interviewing for a possible position that may or may not fit the qualifications at all times. So you end up being a steady backup temp on loan from the agency until the right candidate comes across their path for the full time position.
The crazy thing is, people accept that because the possibility of the illusion is so appealing. We can become desperate for love that we miss all the red flags, stop signs and blaring neon billboards staring us in the face saying TURN THE FUCK BACK, this is NOT THE ONE FOR YOU!!!
That experience at the dance made my son see all the signs and realize to move along. But he was seven, there was a lifetime of opportunities and people ahead of him. Plus Legos and superheroes became more interesting than girls. Easy shift.
But when you are a woman in your forties, the time ahead has been significantly shortened. And if you happen to be coming out of bad marriages or relationships, you may even feel that those years were stolen and crave another chance to find something that works that feels good that feels like you are loved back. That is when you fall into complacency and settle for a situationship because the acceptance of an illusion feels less uncomfortable and daunting than being alone and holding your standards for what you know you deserve.
What I learned through watching how my son navigated this was that some of us just do not know what hiding feelings even means. We are wholly and truly ourselves as open hearts, bleeding hearts and empathetic people.
Some people will be clueless to our existence, like his girl was. Some people will see that and take advantage of your light to feed their ego because of their own insecurities. Others may just hold you in a space where you are never fully in the know and circle, but still not outside. They care for you, but only to a point of their comfort and willingness to bring you into their lives.
Then, and I have yet to know what this feels like, but in my heart I know it’s possible even if in life it’s only been a mirage. Someone will see your light and openness as a beautiful gift that has been placed in their lives and care and protect it with a fierce and gentle spirit knowing that it took a lot for you to get to this place and recognizing that you deserve to feel the warmth of light as a receiver and not only it’s source.