Four years ago I started a 50 List. My original idea was to create a list of 50 things I wanted to do before my 50th birthday. My initial excitement turned to frustration when I realized that I didn’t really have a list of big adventures that would take me through the four years until my 50th birthday. Frustration quickly turned to gratitude when I realized I’ve had the kind of “First Half” of life that’s allowed me to do the things I want to do when I want to do them. I don’t have a big list of big adventures that I haven’t taken yet.
Skydiving? Did that 19 years ago.
See the Eiffel Tower? Packed up my 8 year old and the two of us headed out on that adventure 16 years ago.
Visit Ireland and touch my McCauley roots? Nope – done 14 years ago with my fearless kid riding shotgun as we navigated harrowing traffic circles from the left side of the road.
Kayaking in the Caribbean? Uh uh – 12 years ago with my nature loving kid in the front position pointing out stingrays in the water as we paddled.
Ride horseback through the Nevada desert? Done 8 years ago with my adventuresome teenager riding the dusty trail ahead of me.
Big adventures? Oh Yeah! My “First Half” has been overflowing with big adventures – and for that my heart is overflowing with gratitude.
But what about the little adventures? What about the bliss of real life that just cracks your soul open? Yeah, that was the stuff my heart longed for. Then, without really over-thinking it (which is a rarity for me), I wrote my heart’s deepest longing:
Fall helplessly in love.
But if I was going to do that, I would likely need to start dating again. I mean, God wasn’t going to just drop the man of my dreams into my life without my participation, right? I had been dating on and off for the last five years, and frankly I was just tired of it. So dating really didn’t feel like a good plan. Too scary. Too hard. Too much. No thank you. Not now. So I sort of buried it on the list and tried not to think about it anymore. Seriously? Sometimes I make myself laugh when I look back and see the games I used to play with myself. Like I could really have that realization of my heart’s desire and then hide it on the list between “Sing Karaoke” and “Learn to say thank you in 20 languages” and not think about it again.
And then it happened. Like magic – or a miracle. Out of the blue, God DID drop the man of my dreams into my life without my participation. Through an odd twist of mutual friends and Facebook, he just turned up one day saying “I’d really like to get to know you better – want to have lunch?” I agreed to meet him for a cup of coffee, feeling obligated to keep the “not a date” appointment because we had so many mutual friends. I was nervous, nauseous, and I was sure that this would be a quick cup of coffee and then I’d bolt for the door. I still remember the moment he walked into the coffee shop. My heart skipped a beat. I thought “holy crow, how did I not know how handsome he was?” It was a beautiful June afternoon, so I suggested we take a walk while we sipped our coffee. I figured that way I wouldn’t have to look at him while we talked, because I was sure I’d say something stupid if I had to actually look at his beautiful blue eyes while we chatted.
What started out as nervous conversation quickly became easily and openly sharing the stories of our lives, our kids, our hopes and our dreams. He captured my heart with the depth of his spiritual curiosity. He tried to impress me with his competitive accomplishments, which was just so darn adorable. We walked and talked for 3 hours. I had the most overwhelming urge to hold his hand while we walked. What the heck was wrong with me? I was smitten.
Three dates later he was carving our initials into a fallen tree.
A month later we knew we were in love.
That was three years ago. Those three years are impossible to describe. I experienced the deepest, most beautiful and intimate love I’ve ever known; and I experienced the most profound anxiety and self doubt I’ve ever known. We were helplessly in love with each other, and with that came a steady rhythm of delighting and disappointing each other. Along with the love, support, and tenderness we so readily gave each other – we puked all of our fear, pain and judgment onto each other. We loved each other fiercely, and at the same time we each needed something that the other simply didn’t have to give. The entangled dance that had become our life together finally had to end. That was just a few weeks ago.
My heart is battered. This loss hurts so fucking much. But I’m not broken by this. I’m more whole than I’ve ever been. This relationship was the vessel through which God taught me about love, commitment, fidelity and trust. As painful as this is, my heart is still full of love and gratitude. I am grateful to a kind and loving God who brought this man into my life to crack my soul open and teach me what “Being Rena” really means. This relationship forced me to ask and answer some really hard questions about all of my relationships – not just my relationship with him. What will I allow in my life? What is the difference between unconditional love and a healthy boundary? What is really important to me? What will it take for me to find my voice and ask for what I need? Can I actually stand up and say “this is who I am, and it’s enough”? Do I really believe I am enough?
I am enough. I finally believe I am enough. I finally believe that I may be a little bent, but I’m not broken. I finally accept that I am a smart, courageous, loving, kind, generous, forgiving woman who is not always all of those things – but who deeply aspires to be all of those things. I’m a beautifully flawed human being. Falling helplessly in love cracked my soul open. I’m finally Being Rena.