It is funny how life observations and realizations can come to a person at the most random of moments. Today, my moment formed as beads of sweat gathered on my forehead and my arms grew weary from scraping away the old caulk in my shower.
It dawned on me that relationships in your 40’s can be a lot like home improvement projects. Take re-caulking, for example. A year ago, I caulked my shower. It was the first time I’d ever tried to do it, and I was pretty proud of myself with the end result. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than it was before and it felt good knowing that I took something in my new home, and I made it better. A year of learning to manage my life and my children’s lives completely on my own had not been easy, but like the shower, I was better that day than I had been previously.
And, now I find myself a year later, taking off moldy remnants of my previous work, cleaning out the gunk, and starting over. I shake my head as the parallels to dating life come to mind.
Each time we try again, we find ourselves looking at things anew. It’s like walking into your new home after signing on the dotted line. The slate is clean, you feel a surge of optimism at the thought of this new place and all the new possibilities. This excitement can be dangerous for the hopeless romantic type, which I must admit that I am. You imagine the “what if’s” entirely too far in advance. But, in some ways, that can be fun. It makes the exploration all the more exciting as you enter those first few months of getting to know that someone special and new.
But, over time, you see some of the cracks in the new person’s makeup, like noticing the various flaws in the home you’ve just purchased. You see scars from past relationships. You look to the person to decide, is it going to be worth dealing with these things to see if this is the real thing?
And, by the same turn, they look to you. They begin to see some of the less desirable things left from past hurt and relationship failures. Like molds, those things can grow until they become a problem. You can let those past life experiences take over, to the point that you can’t see this new face before you. You only see the last face. The one who left you hurt and changed. You feel unprepared to tackle what needs to be done to start again.
But, the hope that I hold on to, perhaps foolishly, is that once you dive in and scrap away the residue from the past hurt, you find something nice, something solid and worthy of your time and energy. You see the person for what they are—human. Just as you are human. You throw your arms around them and love them, hoping to clear away the past hurt and make way for something more meaningful and new. You take that chance.
With every new try, you could just give up. You could leave things as they are, and not try to find a way through it. You could just walk away from the job entirely. Maybe it is not worth it to you at this point in your life.
But, the there is another option. Sometimes you can look at the person standing before you, and you can let all the past go. You can try to re-caulk a line this time that will not leak or break away during life’s trials. You can take what you’ve learned from the past, and instead of letting it immobilize you, you can let it teach you how to build something stronger this time.
You can try again.
Each time you forgive yourself for your mistakes, and you see yourself getting better at knowing what you need to do. Each time, you build something stronger. One day, you hope it will be worth it. And you will look into the person’s eyes and know, you came through all of this to get to this place. This place that is so much better than any other place you have ever been.
My morning was filled with disappointments and missteps. And, so I threw myself into this work to try and forget.
I look at my shower….still a work in progress. Something tells me that whether this go-round work out or not, I will be OK. I will be stronger. I will learn something and know what to do better next time. And, most of all, I know, that I will try again and again. Until I am to that right person and that better place. Because, I refuse to give up on myself.