Thursday, September 8

the thing about love is... part 2

I was watching the Dr. Phil show and he was doing a whole segment promoting his book Love Smart: How to Find the One You Want—How to Fix the One You’ve Got.

There was a woman on the show who was having trouble getting a man and she didn’t know why because she was actually quite attractive. So Dr. Phil sent her on a test date with this guy, and a cameraman to tape the whole thing. And it turned out she had all these fatal date-killing habits, like she played with her food, and never made eye contact, and talked all about the guys who had left her in the past.

So Dr. Phil explained to her that she needed to avoid doing these things if she wanted things to work out, if she was looking to find Mr. Right. And all the audience members seemed to feel better because now this very attractive young woman was freed from all the things holding her back from the life she always wanted, and she would probably get a marriage proposal the next day.

There were other women on the show with the same problem of not being able to get a man and this time Dr. Phil went on their dates with them. Actually, he went in their ear in the form of a microphone so he could tell them what to do and say while they were on their dates. Although he did this to correct previously romance-sabotaging behavior, this seemed like cheating to me because I think anyone would do alright if they had Dr. Phil in their ear. He told them what to say and how to say it so that they sounded like really great, quality people, which I’m sure they really were when they were being their best selves.

I admit that maybe I watch these shows because I’m secretly hoping that there is a fool-proof, sure-fire way for finding the love of your life. Like a three-step plan or a love potion. It’s what we all hope for really, isn’t it? But I think if there was such a prescription, we might not even need the Dr. Phil show because the secret would have been out long ago. But is learning all the correct ways to act or things to say really the answer?

I didn’t date at all in high school and I didn’t date much in college, either. This might have caused some serious damage to my self esteem except that because of my experience with Alex, I still believed God had big things in store; and also that’s what my mom told me.

But over time, kind of subconsciously, I built up a lot of reservations about finding a guy who would appreciate just how “special” I was. I was sick a lot and had a crooked spine, besides having only one arm, and after a while that starts to make a girl think she is going to have to find someone else who is pretty “special” too.

A fan of the strong silent type
Then, a year or so after I graduated from college and moved back to New Mexico, I met Justin. Justin loved baseball and airplanes. He pitched submarine, low to the ground, and hoped to go pro after school for electrical engineering. Justin’s mom had brain cancer, and a year after I met him, she died. He was only twenty and losing his mom was devastating. But that was just the beginning of his problems. After his mom died, his dad got really sad and depressed and started doing and saying things to the people that he loved that were not very loving at all. Justin’s sister also started doing some crazy things that teenagers sometimes do, and his little brother got stuck in the middle of it all. Because Justin really cared about his family, this was all very difficult for him.

It wasn’t until the summer after his mom died, while he was home from school, that I started to really know him. One day he emailed and asked if I could teach him some ballroom dance steps that I had recently learned in a class, he said, so he could take girls dancing when he went back to school.

One night after the local baseball farm team game and ice cream shakes at the 66 Diner, we had a long talk in the living room of my apartment. Somewhere around 1am, he asked if I ever thought my physical problems would keep someone from wanting to be with me. My initial reaction was to say, “No, of course not, I know that’s not true.” But the truth was, I had thought that. I knew that I was worthy of someone loving me and wanting to be with me, but I still wondered if that person existed. I wondered if anyone would ever understand all my issues and be able to handle them. As it turns out, Justin had wondered that same thing. He didn’t know if he could find a girl who would understand what he was going through and be able to handle the craziness of his home life.

I think that’s when it started to dawn on me that all single people with all sorts of “disabilities” are just wandering around this earth wondering the same thing: if they will ever find someone who is able to share their burdens, someone who is big enough to understand where they’re coming from and to love them just the way that they are. And I began to realize that I had, in some ways, been waiting to even start looking for that person until I had “solved” all my problems. I pretty much assumed I was stuck with the arm, but I didn’t want to fall in love before I figured out how to be well and how to fix my back problems. The last thing I wanted to do was burden someone else with all my issues. I felt, when it came to love, I needed to be the “whole” package so that I could sell to the highest bidder. Then with just one pointed question, Justin shaved off all the layers I built up over the years to protect myself, and went right to the heart. We were both really asking the same question: could we be loved, fully and completely, just as incomplete as we were?

To be continued...