Dear Pepper, It seems as if I can’t get enough advice these days. I keep making the same mistake over and over again. I keep getting hurt and I wonder why. I’m not stupid, Pepper, but lately I just feel like an idiot. See, I dated this girl for a while. She had her faults, but don’t we all? In a surprising twist of fate, I recently broke up with her, but lately I’ve been struggling with wanting to get back together even though I know she isn’t right for me. This is the first person I’ve dated in four years. I haven’t dated because I never felt like anyone would be able to love me. And then I met her. And she forced me to open up. And she forced me to feel like I was worthy of being loved. And so it happened: I fell in love with someone who wanted me, but also wanted to date other people. I stayed with her, loving her, hoping that she would realize that I was worth it. But she never did. And it broke me. It reaffirmed my feelings that I wasn’t worth loving.
My question here is not about whether or not we should get back together, because enough people have told me not to, but more about how you heal your heart when you love someone who doesn’t love you enough in return to fight for you? PS. I’m not a Christian, so please, don’t tell me that God loves me even if she didn’t.
Dear Fight for Me,
I took a trip back when I was 18. It was the first time I crossed the ocean in a plane. The first time I experienced being a minority. It was the first time that the language I knew would not be relevant or helpful in a place. That trip was so uncomfortable. Every place or position I was in was uncomfortable. Everything that I did was a big deal. If it was bartering down the price in a street market, avoiding the derogatory kisses blown at me, or the impossible conversations I'd have with the natives of this beautiful land, I was struggling. They told us we'd likely feel like children, that this is why so many people experience anger when they travel. This trip broke me.
I made it two months. Two terribly heart-breaking months. But at the very end, I got off my shift volunteering at the cafe and I went to the museum that I drove by every day. It was one of the only things I did alone. I can remember walking through the art and history. There were these beautiful fountains in the courtyard at the center of the museum. As I sat down beside them, I breathed in and out in all my aloneness. In all my grown-up-ness. And after everything, I thought: I made it.
I think about that moment a lot and about how it's so important because it is solely mine.
When I read your letter that's where I was taken. I don't think you are asking about how to mend your broken heart. I think there are so many layers to your letter. So many beautiful things at play, but what all those layers and stories boil down to is this vital question: how do I love myself? How do I become okay with my imperfect me-ness when it feels like no one else is?
When I came back from my trip, I went on a retreat. It was to a house in the heart of Vancouver. During this trip I was required to write out the timeline of my life. I can't tell you how hard it was for me to do that. To be quite honest, I couldn't do it. I sat there staring at the wimpy line I drew across this lined piece of paper for a better part of a day asking: why? It wasn't hard. It wasn't impossible. But for some reason it was hard for me that weekend. I had someone I was supposed to share my life story with and I had to be honest with her that I actually couldn't complete the task at hand. Even though it was simple, even though it was mine.
In her wisdom, she told me to just talk about myself.
You know what I told her about, Fight for Me? I told her about my sister. I told her about how my sister had struggled for years with body image and bulimia and how heartbreaking that was for me. It all bubbled out of me and into the open from this unknown place. I hadn't told anyone. My sister's struggle had been for so long just a fact to me. But as the leaves changed colours and fell from giant trees that weekend, I realized that it was a story I needed to tell. I understood why it was so important to write down the timeline of my life, if only just for me.
I understood that in telling my story, I was giving justice to myself. By putting words to the inner parts of me I was actually loving myself. Through reveling in all the beauty and art of a culture I still don't understand, I was feeding myself. How do you feed yourself, Fight for Me? What are the stories you need to tell yourself?
I hope it's one of a beautiful unfolding, where you realize that who you are is already enough.