I know it’s not the most conventional life. Divorced. Mom. Dating. Living with my parents.

It’s not what dreamt of when I sat in my room as a little girl. Playing Barbie’s pretending to act out my future. Barbie loved ken, she married him and they had a pink jeep, a house cut in half but it was still a house. It had an elevator despite it’s incomplete condition. They had a baby they loved and a little dog. They laughed and had fun, they danced, they went swimming, they went on adventures together. I remember thinking that’s what my life would be like. Fun, in love with a family of my own.

As a teenager I remember crying in my room. I didn’t have a boyfriend but all my friends did. Was I not pretty? Not smart? Too much of a goof ball? I cried angsty tears of pure desperation and loneliness. I wanted to find a love like my parents. Not perfect but balanced and bold. Full of love. Passion and unwavering devotion.

Love.

It’s elusive. It’s hard. It’s sought after but not easily found.

Not long ago I was married. I fought for my husband to love me. Because I loved him. I don’t doubt I loved him. Love is not one version. I love my Mom. I love my Son. I love my dog and I love ice cream cake. All of those in their own way. Our marriage was built on progression. Moving to the next step in life because that is what people do. Somewhere, I don’t know where we lost the point. I was all in. As I vowed on our wedding day. I wasn’t always happy but I thought that was how marriage worked. But he was not all in. He professed he didn’t love me anymore. Leaving me to fight like hell and lose myself in battle.

Rule number one: If you have to fight to be loved. You will lose. Walk away with your dignity in tact. I sure as hell did not.

Rule number two: Never give up on yourself. The rest will follow.

This marriage of necessities produced a child. A beautiful brilliant baby boy. I will never take it back. Because that life is the most important life I have ever met. And I finally understand what love is.

I focused on me, learning to be happy despite being torn to shreds and lurking at rock bottom. I tried to quiet my fears of being a single mom. I accepted I was a piece of gossip. I acknowledged that I didn’t need to be a champion for my cause. I lived. I was a warrior.

I got out in the world of dating.

My first date. Blind. awkward. Set up by my Aunt. He was a coworker and step-son of a friend. I went with the intent of having hopefully at least good conversation and thats it.

We closed the bar down. We were talking for hours. I was buzzed from the beer. He walked me to my car. Hugged me.

I texted him that night that I was home safe. I thought to myself that night that he was too good to be true. He was cute, smart and talented. This will be fun while it lasts I thought.

It’s been 10 months now.

He supported me through the actual Divorce. He has seen me cry. Seen me sick. Seen me mad. He walked into my life and now when I close my eyes he is all I see. I want him in my life.

Last week he came over. And little guy wanted to watch scooby doo. We all sat on the couch cuddled together.

My heart. I swear it stopped for a split second. I had my family. I felt home. I felt safe. I felt loved. I felt like this man is my future.

He went home that night and before he did he said “I love you.”

For the first time.

And then I couldn’t talk. I lost the ability to stand.

I don’t remember much about 11 years ago when the last man told me he loved me. I do remember I didn’t loose my footing. I do remember thinking that I was not sure how I felt saying it back.

But this time. I said it back. Relieved. It had been on the tip of my tongue but I lacked the courage to tell him.

“I love you too. So much. So so much”

I could explode.

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