Something interesting came through my Facebook feed the other day via Brain Pickings. It was a short article about how love can rewire your brain. Peter and I were talking about how much we've changed since being together. I was reminded that I always apologised...for anything, and then when Peter pointed out what I was doing I apologised for that! I don't do it any more.
As much as love can make us think and feel differently, I believe the same can be said for bad relationships. I've spent the majority of my life as part of a couple and looking back I can see shyness and insecurity, anxiety and self doubt. I guess the problem is when these feelings are also mixed up in 'love'. What a mind fuck! Put simply, we shouldn't stay in relationships that make us feel 'less'. Easier said than done.
I left a relationship because I wasn't entirely happy. I loved them and they loved me...but it wasn't enough. Then I met Peter who changed everything. He 'fit' me. It was like finding a piece of myself that I didn't know was missing. He made a promise to me that if I jumped from my old life, he would catch me. We held hands and said we would never let the other person drop. And through some pretty turbulent times we clung to each other.
The first five years of our relationship included some awful times. Life threw everything at us (for selected highlights read any blog post from 2009 onwards!) but even during the bleak times our promise rang true. Our hands clasped tightly together. No one would fall. A dear friend said to me once, speaking from her own experience, that I would get through the hardship and then look back and marvel at how strong I was. It's so hard to imagine when you're in the thick of it. When speaking to a psychologist during those times, I said I just woke up and went to work and took life one day at a time. That was all I could do. She pointed out that not everyone does this. Some people break and can't get up. Not everyone copes.
I have been thinking a lot lately. Redundancy is looming at my work place and people are feeling jittery. Those difficult days have made me resilient. I've been able to step back and look at myself and contemplate my worth. A year ago this concept would have seemed alien to me. What can I offer? What skills do I have? Am I good at anything? I've worked there a really long time, and while I admire people who can take risks and change course I kinda saw myself as a 'plodder'. Interestingly, given a new perspective through talking to a friend I realised that others saw it as a strength. I changed and took on challenges and kept showing up each day. It's strange to reach a time in my life where I seem confident. As a natural introvert I find that word weird. But perhaps this is a side effect of resilience?
I got another tattoo yesterday. We have a print by Angelique Houtkamp called 'Sailor's Sweetheart' that Peter got me for my 40th. It has a pair of hands clasped and I love this image. It's a tattoo classic. So after a bit of research I found a great female tattooist called Jaclyn Rehe and sent in a design idea. She did such a beautiful job and I'm so thrilled. She said she liked doing romantic tattoos. I smiled. You see, as much as this tattoo speaks volumes about the promise Peter and I made, this is also for me. I have faced some difficult things and survived. I am stronger than I thought possible and I got through it with love and humour. I'm really proud of that. Perhaps my brain has rewired itself?! Perhaps it's true, as a line from the Brain Pickings article points out:
Who we are and who we become depends, in part, on whom we love
Who I am now has resulted in the intertwining of my experience and who I choose to love. As intertwined as these hands. Gentle and strong.
I know that looking at the oncoming storm I will stand firmly with both feet on the ground and my face to the breeze. Come what may, I can look at my arm and remember. Never let go.