on falling helplessly in love


Expansion by Paige Bradley

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.


7 thoughts on “on falling helplessly in love

  1. Terry

    Wow, thanks for sharing your journey to find that YOU are spectacular!

    I love you just the way you are! Keep on Being RENA!!


  2. Barbara schlierf

    Beautifully written and a you are a very wise woman!! Self acceptance. What a important thing I know it is my struggle at times.. Thank you for sharing!!!


  3. Very touching share. Thank you. And may I gently offer that there is no “difference between unconditional love and a healthy boundary”. These are not “either…or” concepts. Rather, they are “both…and”. Having one does not, and should not, mean sacrificing the other. Any healthy, loving relationship will include both.


    • Hey Royce – I thought about this comment recently – and wanted to finally reply. You are correct. It took me a really long time to realize that I could love unconditionally AND set healthy boundaries. I was living a life where they WERE mutually exclusive. I finally understand that the best relationship of my life WILL include both. He will love me unconditionally, and he will set healthy boundaries. And I will do the same. Thank you for your comment. xoxo


  4. Sage

    I was reading another blog recently which had the idea of a “Nectar List”
    Not exactly the opposite of a Bucket List, but a list of things that have been the core of our experiences thus far–things that help make up who you are. (And, partly, Bucket List-y things that have already been done.)

    I thought the idea tied in nicely to the top of your piece.

    (Oh, and because I should reference the blog is/was Daydreaming in Ink. It’s not mine, I just stumbled across it and re-found it with google just now.)


    • love the idea of a Nectar List. Maybe a little bit like a Gratitude List. I’m currently counting down 50 Days Until My 50th Birthday with a daily gratitude post. Thanks for reading my blog! xoxo


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