I will hit a milestone birthday in three months. Since my birthday last year, I've thought of this milestone birthday every day. I'm not kidding. And sometimes, I've thought about what I'd hoped I would have by this time in my life. A husband, children, a nice home in a suburb, a stable job that I enjoyed, no financial issues. The only thing on that list I can say I have is the stable job, which I do enjoy, although on occasion I feel like getting in my car, driving away and never coming back to work. I've had friends whose husbands or close friends throw birthday parties in honor of this milestone. I can say with confidence that no one is going to throw me a birthday party. My family and closest friends are spread out in different areas of the country, and it takes about a month of planning to meet up with my friends here for a simple dinner, much less planning a party. I'm not asking for a party; my point is that I don't have what most of my friends have at this point in their lives - a family of my own. Which I really thought I would have.
What I do have, though, are some things I'm not sure very many of my friends or family members possess. I have the ability to decide for myself what my life will be like going forward. I have the ability to change my job, my living situation and my geographical location pretty much on a whim. I have had, over the course of the eleven years that I've been separated and divorced, plenty of opportunity to reflect and grow as an individual. I have developed self-assurance, self-sufficiency, self-esteem, and self-confidence. I have been given the opportunity to learn how to love myself. I am still in that process, but I recognize self-love now, and I embrace it.
I chose to open up two years ago after being closed off to love for almost ten years. I was emotionally unavailable and aloof. I did not develop relationships because I didn't want people to disappoint me the way my ex-husband had. The process of opening up was painful, and I'm still experiencing it. Over the past two years, I have felt deep pain, but I have also felt joy and peace. I learned that I could not expect perfection from another human being, especially if I was not perfect myself. I learned that I could not expect someone to constantly reassure me that he would always be there, especially since I wasn't a hundred percent there myself. I learned that in life, we don't always get what we "deserve", which could be a good or bad thing. What we are guaranteed is a lesson that we were created to learn to help us grow and move forward in the self-actualization process.
I learned one of the most important lessons of my life over the past two years. I learned that I had to be more accepting of people. However, in order to be accepting of others, I learned that I had to accept myself first. No more beating myself up or expecting perfection of myself. I learned to accept my flaws, to work on what I needed to change, to let go of what I could not change, and to be as kind to myself as I am to others. Self-deprecating thoughts have been replaced with self-affirmation. I set personal goals and achieve them. I care more about my health and personal appearance, and have actually taken the steps to do the work needed to improve in these areas. Most importantly, I realized that the only person I had to seek approval from was myself, and only in the sense that I understand that who I am right at this moment is who God created me to be. Because He is perfect, I know that I am no mistake. I am exactly who I was created to be right at this moment. If that's alright with God, then it's alright with me.
I learned that I hadn't given up, or closed myself off, or stopped caring. I merely looked at myself for who I am, and said, "I accept you." From there, I found the freedom to accept others, and this opened up my heart to love others like never before. And there's nothing more beautiful on this earth than to love and be loved.