With Valentine’s day sending hearts aflutter on social media feeds worldwide, my husband Luke and I got sent into a similar flutter.
Yes, he surprised me with flowers. Yes, I squeezed my sausage prego self into a dress for a date night out together. Gifts and quality time are all priceless things in any relationship–most especially a marriage. They’re worthy of celebrating, photographing, and sharing with others. But as we thought down through this, our hearts centered around those still in their season of wait.
The storybook engagement, wedding, rose petal scattered dinner snaps showering social media can likely leave a really deep emptiness in a lot of folks hearts. We know this, because we’ve felt it, too. This baby boy in my belly and this blue sparkly thing on my finger didn’t rain down from a rainbow filled sky after a pain free life. Like most of us, it was quite the opposite actually.
Before I met Luke, after my second failed long term relationship, I was at rock bottom. When I finally mustered up the courage enough to call the office and request a therapy appointment, I sobbed hot streaming tears in response to the office manager asking my availability. He patiently, lovingly, waited until I could breathe enough to speak, got my information down and set an appointment up for two days following. Oof. I need to go back and thank him someday. Had he hung up or gotten off the phone, I’m not sure I would’ve been able to swallow my pride enough to ever call back. His patience led to that appointment. That appointment led to my life.
Anyone else ever show up to therapy for the first time with bright red lipstick, perfectly coiffed curls, and all black business attire? Surely, the professionally trained human sitting in front of you won’t see any of those emotional scars because they will be far too captivated by the shade of lipstick, right? They’ll give you a pat on the head and send you away and you won’t ever have to do the hard work of unpacking decades of pain. That’s how it works. Always. Forever & ever. Amen.
Thankfully, with the gentle, kind coaxing only a professional knows how to do, that black business blouse quickly became soaked with tears. I unpacked everything. I unpacked my childhood. I unpacked my high school sweetheart leaving me. I unpacked my three best friends saying an abrupt goodbye and ending our friendship. I unpacked my fears of life with epilepsy, and how I felt unworthy of a partner because of them. I unpacked my rebound toxic relationship–riddled with abuse in every sense–all of which I thought I deserved at the time. So much so that I was very much considering knowingly walking back into said relationship.
As the temptation of stepping backwards and (undeserved) excuses for my recent ex’s behaviors spilled out of my too bright lips, that hour and a half appointment ran over to two hours. I didn’t realize this until I said thank you, made a second appointment, paid the bill and made it back to my car. Had I not checked the time, I never would’ve known. My hurting heart felt glimmers of acceptance and tinges of hope.
“Kel…your picker is broken.”
My therapist met with me weekly and “fixed my picker.” She spoke these words during our second appointment. She explained why I was picking the wrong men, why it was in line with my past, why I deserved more, and most of all, why I needed to pick myself, first. Of all her wordy wisdoms in this appointment, “Kel…your picker is broken.” stayed with me most. It was simply and perfectly put. It rang in my head and kept me going back.
I stayed with her for years. Picker fixed and a whooole lotta messy sorted through, I found my Luke.
But I never would’ve found him if I hadn’t first found myself.
Beauty in the Broken
As my picker was fixed, I had the front row seat to seeing my dearest friends picker’s get fixed, too. I’ve seen a best friend’s hubby help her put on diapers after surgery. I’ve watched another friend’s spouse help her function each day as she faced a devastating medical diagnosis of her son—doing “the little” things to help her get through moment by moment, like putting a Keurig pod in the Keurig for her, picking out her clothes for her, and filling up her gas tank as her grieving mind continuously forgot. I’ve seen a dear friend’s fiancé take her to physical therapy after a car accident, and relentlessly push her to keep going.
I’ve felt my own husband lift me out of bed for months after my spinal surgery; daily dressing me, bathing me, and doing things for my healing body I never would’ve imagined I’d have to ask him to do. I’ve felt those same loving hands urgently embrace me as the obstetrician spoke the words “not viable” and we lost our 2nd twin, Mila.
None of these things are fun to watch. They’re certainly not fun to endure, either. But the beauty in the brokenness fills my heart with explanations & answered questions every time.
I’ve sat with each of those friends of mine as they shed endless tears over someone not meant for them, because back then, none of it made sense. But we all know now, none of the exes cried over would’ve filled these roles. None of them would’ve brought laughter and hope to the unspeakably vile chapters. None of them would’ve adored their morning troll hair. None of them were meant to be their partner forever. None of them, but the ones they ended up with.
My favorite, most defining moments in my life with Luke thus far have been coming out of the other side of disaster. It’s been the moments curled up on the couch together, dancing with the first touches of laughter again at The Office reruns as we faced unimaginable grief. It’s been holding each other through death, and tugging at the other’s heart through the simple touch of a smiley face in a morning latte design. It’s been walking out of physical therapy after gaining mobility back that was once deemed “impossible.” It’s been staring at another “Pregnant” test and sobbing in fear at the potential of another loss.
I didn’t know it then, but I do know now: none of these moments would be anything close to the same had I settled years ago, had I not learned to “pick” myself first, had I not waited, had I not ever believed I deserved better and embraced my Luke when he entered the story.
Good, great, other-worldly wonderful things happen to those who wait & weep. To those who sort through the discomfort, and steer clear of temptation to take the easy route and backtrack backwards to what’s not meant for them.
Luke is my best friend in every way. We can speak to each other in a single glance at an eerily accurate level. We can read each other across the room and know when the other needs a hand squeeze of encouragement. We adore each other’s dreams. We hold each other accountable for bringing them to fruition. We speak tough truths to the other when needed–all because we want the other to live the best version of themselves always. We tell each other secrets we didn’t think would ever see the light of day. We inspire one another. We laugh harder together than is reasonable, and freely embrace the not so fun emotions in the comfort of one another, too.
As we sat on our couch and thought of Those Still Weeping & Waiting, we reflected on all of this. If you are one who is still in the season of waiting, I beg you, please. keep. going.
Do not go back to the ex because he bought you flowers that one time, but you’re not too sure he supports your dreams, and you know for certain he isn’t “The One” but he is “A One”. No way, Jose. Please. Do. Not. I know it’s tempting. I know it would be so easy. I know time is passing. I know. But sweet, strong friend, had I settled and not waited on Luke, every single aspect of my life would be negatively impacted.
My faith would be questioned. My dreams would be limited. My sorrows would be even lonelier. My joys would be limited. My laughter would be empty. My relationship with my family would be different. The life I am meant to live would not be lived out, because I wouldn’t be hand in hand with the one picked specifically for my treks.
Learning to “pick” myself and embrace myself first gave me health. That lesson, as well as all the lessons in the prior heartbreaks, readied me for my Luke.
If you are still waiting, and wondering if just maaaybe that one guy who was just a bit off might just work…please stop. Who you pick in your spouse will shape every single thing about your life for the rest of your life. It will be the biggest blessing, or it will cast a dark shadow on every corner and crevice of your world. The choice is up to you.
But while you wait? Weep. Unpack all of it. It sucks. I know. I am no expert, but I do know, having my Luke makes every single second of life before him make sense. I promise, you will find yours, too.
Joe doesn’t laugh much at all, and your grandpa doesn’t like him.
Harold wants to live in Alaska, and thinks your dream of opening a cupcake shop is “cute.”
Don is flat out abusive.
Frank is cookie cutter “perfect.” And still, something is just off. The clicking isn’t there.
All of these fellows aren’t meant for you. And you aren’t meant for them.
You are meant for yourself, first. And after doing the hard work of knowing this (and knowing it’s lifelong work), your picker will be fixed. And that picker will spin and spin and spin until your spouse appears on the game board. And when he does, you’ll be ready. And the heartache of Don, Harold and Frank, will all make sense.
You forever deserve Valentine’s Days that are full because your heart is, not just because your flower vase is.
Keep waiting, sister. And if you ever need any crazy stories of my Harold & Joe in the past, you already know I’ll share them with you if they will help. I’m a big fan of over sharing; an open book. Judgement free. I promise.
Now just promise me you’ll get rid of Harold already, OK?
Big I Promise It Will Be Worth The Wait Hugs,