The 1-2-3 get-ready-for-love plan
by Elaine Taylor —
When anyone asks my dignified, stiff-upper-lipped husband how a guy who has been an investment banker in financial capitals of the world — London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, New York — ended up blissfully hitched to a broad from red-white-and-blue Texas, he deadpans in his clipped British accent, “We were channeled together by the spirit of Elaine’s dead lover.”
One-hundred percent true but not as effortlessly mystical as it sounds — even if you are into that stuff. I grew up in redneck, white-trash, blue-collar Texas, where a girl was a big fat nothing — less valuable than a good “huntin’ dawg.”
Terrified to wake up 30 years later and discover this was true, I scratched out a role in the corporate testicle festival. By age 40, I earned fat, man-sized paychecks. The price? A heart as tough as armadillo hide and my “love life” a dispiriting trail of relationship road kill.
Desperate for a peek at my future, I consulted an astrologer/psychic who fanned out her tarot cards, did her California woo-woo thing and assured me I would someday have the kind of love about which stories are written. “But,” she said, “not until you are ready.” Sheesh, I thought. How much readier could one woman be?
The psychic pointed me down the path of a 1-2-3 get-ready-for-love plan. First step was to write a list of what constitutes a perfect mate. But truth be told, if you are “on the market,” you have some form of that list already running through your subconscious 24/7. And the list worked! My first iteration, decades earlier, was “tall, dark and handsome.” Yep, that is exactly what I got and pretty much nothing more.
This time I went beyond the description found on a driver’s license, honing and refining my list over several years. Sadly, this was not an overnight process, but is not the possibility of a soulmate worth the time?
The next step was to define what “love” would look like when it found me. Seriously? How no-brainer is that? It would be: “Wonderful! Spectacular! I would be ecstatically happy.” Which, of course, was just another lazy generalized variation of the driver’s license list.
To my surprise, I struggled with this and could not even figure out where to start — until Emily Dickinson’s words inspired me: “Heart, we will forget him! You and I, tonight! You may forget the warmth he gave, I will forget the light.”
The third step was to unload the emotional baggage — no emotional baggage here. OK, OK! I was a Peterbilt truck with no side mirrors, hauling a semi-trailer of festering emotional manure that rocked along in my blind spot. Yeah, it probably could not hurt to drop a load.
After much mewling and twitchy dithering, I hunkered down on my therapist’s sofa, unleashed a lifetime of repressed tears and summoned the courage to face down all those hurts and betrayals, both those done to me and by me. Over time, the volume diminished on the “you will never be good enough” soundtrack that had been hammered into my psyche.
Painful? Absolutely. Emancipating? Beyond words.
Over this years-long process I discovered three critical truths. It is not possible to find long-lasting, deeply satisfying love unless you believe yourself worthy of it. I also had to learn to love and find contentment with myself.
As a woman clawing her way in a man’s world, I defined “emotional strength” as all sharp edges and impenetrable boundaries. I had to relearn that tenderness and vulnerability are the DNA of true emotional strength. When the time came, I used that strength to love a dying man who had once broken my heart. He was a man who desperately needed to receive love, even though he could not return it.
I accepted and found peace with the fact that I might never share my life with the perfect mate. So what would I do with all the love my heart yearned to give? I stopped focusing on what I did not have and instead sought a way to give what I could offer to those who needed it. I began to volunteer at a homeless shelter for families — the kind of place that but for the grace of God I could have landed in my early, below-the-poverty-level, single-parent years.
My journey through the get-ready-for-love plan was neither easy nor quick. But it was worth it for the lessons learned, for the woman I worked so hard to become, and for the love and respect I now feel for myself.
As it turned out, my reward was exponentially greater. The psychic told me two years after my friend died that he would send me my soulmate — a lover who would bring warmth and light for the rest of my life. She seriously said that. And my old friend did deliver my soulmate who has been my husband and perfect mate since 2001.
Thankfully I was ready for love and ready for him when he found me.
Elaine Taylor is a former IT headhunter and Contingent Workforce Management consultant to Fortune 500 companies. She teaches story structure through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke University. She is the author of Karma, Deception and a Pair of Red Ferraris. Currently she lives with her husband and two highly indulged Weimaraners in the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 34, Number 1, February/March 2015.