The Lessons of Valentine’s Past

silhouette photo of man leaning on heart shaped tree
Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

There was a time that I had largely given up on ever finding love.

I was never bitter about it however. I never felt that the world “owed” me a lover. My self-esteem, my self-worth, was so catastrophically low that the notion was practically foreign to me. My life was a punishing reminder that it, and I, was unimportant. And I believed that. Wholeheartedly.

There were attempts made however.

I never knew how to express myself. I was extremely shy and socially awkward. I didn’t know what to do, and my mouth would fail on me, making me mumble and stutter. Few were patient enough to wait for me to work past my issues and I just came out of it looking like a creep. A wierdo. Someone that you would not want to spend time with.

As a child, my family once spent a summer in Regina, Saskatchewan. I met a girl there. Perhaps she was related to my family, maybe we were cousins. I no longer remember her name. She was tall, taller then me at the time.

As was usual for me, I didn’t know anyone there. My parents were being social, visiting their friends and family. I was by myself. But then she was there. She asked if I could ride a bike. I said no. She said no problem and took my hand.

Learning to ride a bike was exhilarating. In a dusty, hot alley in Regina, I learned. Crashing. Falling. Landing on unforgiving asphalt. Pedaling into garages because I hadn’t yet learned that you drive towards what you are looking at. She taught and I learned.

She was a tomboy, as they are sometimes called. Short hair, scuffed knees, dirty from playing in the street all day. She formed an ideal in my mind that persists to this day.

She also taught me about breaking and entering. Perhaps I will speak of that another time. Soon, our vacation ended and my family returned home. I never saw her again but I still think of her from time to time.

I met my first girlfriend in my last year of highschool. She was a year behind and recently transferred in from another school. My counsellor noticed a large influx of Native Canadian students and decided to put us all together to help us learn about our collected heritages. A brilliant idea I thought.

We went on several field trips together, and sat by each other. We started to talk, A rariety for me, I had precious few friends in highschool. I put up a tough exterior during those days: long black hair, black leather jacket though I recently traded that in for a long coat. I also started to learn to play the guitar, so I would be seen carrying it to and from class. I also started drinking that year, for which I was much the worse for.

We dated! My sense of self worth could not take it. WOULD NOT take it, in fact. In response to this new, unexpected influx of affection, I started to drink more. She wisely withdrew. I was convinced that this was the end of the world, that I would never recover. My heartache was only worsened by booze.

I wasted so much time like that. It took many years before I was even somewhat whole again. Then I met another woman. Was I ready? I wasn’t even close. There was so much healing that I needed to do, but I fell headfirst in love again.

And she rejected me. And I was crushed, again. More time passed.

In hindsight, it is curious to see the pattern emerge; a broken man, seeing a woman who can perhaps fix him. Make him whole. Failing must mean that I am worthless. Garbage. Unworthy. Such mistaken ideas. Only I can fix myself. I know that now.

In time, I met someone else. Kind, funny, caring. She too, turned down my clumsy advances. My heart hurt for some time, but there was a change.

For the first time, the thought appeared, “It’s her loss.” Those simple words changed things for me so much. Was I growing? Was I developing self-esteem?

The pain of rejection was diminished.

I realized that I was not ready. I came to understand that I needed to work on myself. I didn’t know how much I had to do, but it was a start.

I focused on my self. On my work. On my hobbies. On my friends. I got a new job, far superior to any I’d had before.

Then I met someone.

Both of us were in training for our new employment. We were both uncertain, but excited, about the path ahead of us. We connected, a smile from across the room, standing closer then neccessary to discuss the lesson of the day.

But we also knew it was too soon. Our employment demanded too much attention. We both chose to focus on that for the time being. We became friends.

Later that year, she asked what I was doing for my upcoming birthday. I had nothing planned, but with her looking at me with those green eyes, I determined to come up with something.

The plunge had begun.

Because I was no longer worried about being “fixed”, I could be more relaxed around her, more honest. I was myself with her, a first for that. I told her about my experiences, and she did the same. Our connection became profound and instant.

She loved me. Her strength gave me the courage to seek help for my trauma and finally make peace with my past. I loved her. I supported her through serious injury and a major career change.

It is not always easy, but it is in those small moments, where we lie in bed together and smile at each other, or sit beside each other on the couch to watch our favorite shows while holding hands, that love exists.

Those are the moments I live for.