"We accept the love we think we deserve."
That line, from The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, is one that has stuck with me in the decade since I first read the novel.
There's a lot of truth in the sentiment. We search for someone who makes us happy, who makes us better, who makes us complete. Sometimes, we find that person. Sometimes, that person turns out to be the opposite of who we thought they were. Sometimes they hurt us. Sometimes we let them. Sometimes we put all our energy and heart and soul and faith into a person who has done nothing to earn any of them. Sometimes we cry ourselves to sleep, wondering why we care so much, why we can't just walk away, why this "great love" has turned into something we never thought we would put up with.
I know I'm guilty of it.
There was a time when I took any scrap of affection that was carelessly tossed my way and clung to it with every part of me. When I was so love-starved that I would put up with lies and cheating and selfishness and emotional torture, just so I wouldn't be alone. When I would drive home, sobbing so hard I could barely steer the car, totally unsure what I had done that made me deserve this treatment. Wondering when I became so weak that I would stay with someone who didn't give a damn about me. Wanting to rip my own heart out, because it wasn't doing me any good anyway.
But I always stayed. I always stuck it out. I thought that I couldn't do any better. I thought that this was it. This was what my life would be like. I wasn't pretty enough, or funny enough, or smart enough to have the right to be happy, to have someone who actually loved ME. Not the doormat. Not the caregiver. ME. I got so used to being in a constant state of loneliness, even when I was sleeping next to someone. But I still never thought of leaving that. I just wanted something, even if it wasn't love. Even if it was barely involved. Even if my heart shattered over and over again, while I tried to figure out what to do to make myself better, more deserving, easier to be with...anything to make my screwed-up relationship into something more.
But then, something happened. The last straw. The time I really needed someone to be there, and he wasn't. He couldn't be bothered. There I was, crying and lost and empty, reeling from the loss of one of the most influential people in my life, and he couldn't be bothered to even come up with an "I'm sorry for your loss." I ended up going to a new friend, one I barely knew, who held me and let me cry and suddenly made me realize that I WAS worthy of being cared for, of being loved. That I was a good person, and that while I had my faults, I deserved someone who would drop everything to come pick me up when I couldn't get myself up off the floor.
That was when I knew I had to let go.
Since then, I've been in my fair share of rough relationships. I've been hurt, and my heart is worse for the wear. But I have made it a point to never let things get to the point where I didn't know why I was in it again. And yes, I've made some mistakes and given little pieces of myself away to some people who probably didn't deserve them, but it was always on my own terms.
And now? I'm stronger than ever. I'm more confident. I know who I am, and I know what I deserve. And I am holding out for it. Whether I find it now, or next month, or in twenty years, I'll know that, as the song goes, in the end, the love I'll take will be equal to the love I'll make.
Shake on it.
15 hours ago