Growing up

How beautiful to grow into the realization that you don’t have to deny your own self to be loved.
You don’t have to dismiss your soul
demean your being
downplay your personhood
devalue your existence
to be loved.

But you might have to accept that the people who should love you don’t.
Not fully, not unconditionally.
Their love has reservations, their love has limits. And when they reach those limits they blame you.

But you’re not the one who trapped love in a net and pinned it to a board.

You’re not the one who put limits on love.

You’ve probably been begging — for as long as you remember, every way you could imagine — to lose the limits. Step past. Meet you on the other side.

The first part of growing up is realizing some people will never do it.

The second part of growing up is realizing there are so many people who will,
Who already have.

So many people have fought their own battles
And faced their own shittiness
And shaken off dead rotting things
And untangled chains to loose their feet and step out,
To stand in this open field, to meet you here.

Your work (and the third part of growing up) is to let go of your own limits:
The voices, the lies, the memories
The stickiness of guilt
The weight of loneliness, the weight of the past
The fear of being left out in the cold
The sense of failure, the sense of shame
The idea that you’re not worthy.

Your work is to burn through the limits you put on love.
Light them on fire. Grow up.
Accept the love you deserve from those who are able
and willing
and delighted
to give it to you.

I used to wake up next to someone who wasn’t thrilled to be with me.

And I thought if I loved hard enough, long enough, well enough
If I took up the cross of caretaking and denied myself the right to grow
If I stayed small enough to fit inside this box or that box
If I played the games, jumped the hoops, said the words
I would win.
I would win the love I craved.
I would win back the love I gave: all in, no limits.

You’ve gonna be shocked when I tell you things did not work out as hoped.

But I worked it out, worked my way out, eventually.

And I learned:
People who love you don’t go looking for loopholes to love you less.

Because love is not a legal obligation.
Love is not a piece of paper.
Love is never a duty.

Love is not tolerant; love is delighted.

Love is delighted to be here with you.
Love is thrilled to see your face with any expression.
Love is ecstatic that you exist.
Love is grieved over your pain.
Love does not wield truth like a weapon but spreads it on gently, a balm for aching wounds.
Love knows your name.

These are holy words.
Believe them.
Write them down, engrave them on your heart, paint them on your walls, tattoo them on your skin, hang them in your doorways, sing them under your breath, breathe them in and out, remember them.

This is the fourth part of growing up.
This is the hardest part.
This is the part when you quit blaming yourself for how other people loved you,
Or didn’t love you.

You don’t get what you deserve. You get what people are willing to give.
Then you decide: do I want what they’re offering?

They love the way they love because of who they are, not because of who you are.

Some people will draw a little circle, and say: Step inside this circle and I will love you.
They will say: You don’t need anything outside this circle.
They will say: If you really loved me you would stay inside this circle.
They will say: Why are you leaving, I thought you loved me!
They will say: You hurt me so much, why can’t you stay in the circle for me?
They will say: It’s so hard to love you.
They will say: You’re asking too much.
They will say: I did my best.

They haven’t grown up yet.

But you have.