There is a modern-day fairytale that begins like this:
Once upon a time in the midst of raising children, a lovely lady who had grown a bit complacent was surprised one day when her mate of many years said I don’t love you anymore.
She, being the stronger of the two, continued as the primary parent. She, being the person that she is, thought first of the children while he thought first of the fantastical things that seemed important to him in mid-life.
Time passed and as she sent the last child off to college, he was on a beach with someone who made him feel younger than he was. And while he and the other were lying under the sun, her life alone began.
It was the first time she had lived alone and she decided to enjoy it. She chose to eat cereal for dinner on occasion. She chose to let the house get a bit messy now and then. She chose to play music with the light on when she woke at night and could not get back to sleep. She chose when and where and why and how without consulting anyone.
In the quiet of that empty nest she remembered being 22 and young and in love. She did not remember exactly how it was she chose her mate. She could recall only that when college ended and careers began, others started to marry. Marriage, it seemed, was the next logical step in life.
There came a night when she woke in the middle of her king-sized bed and asked herself, out loud, why had she thought she was ready? Could she have possibly known herself well enough and loved herself completely at that long ago time?
She recalled living blindly, caught up in the moment and in a gale of love that had swept in on the wind of fear. In hindsight, it was like grade school. Everyone was being selected, one by one. She feared she might be the person nobody picked. She would remain standing, all alone and by herself, if she did not marry soon.
As it happened, she was not chosen and she was left standing alone, these many years later. And it was scary. This was not the future she envisioned when she married. This is not what she expected would come to pass when she was young and raising her family and being supportive and loving while all the while thinking the days ahead would be spent with the person to whom she vowed her forever.
In the days of scary quiet that followed after the kids moved out, she made herself do something new and a couple of push ups each day. Before terribly long, she could do twenty push ups and she had traveled by herself to a place a thousand miles away that she had always wanted to visit. She did things she had not done before. Like asking for help and not minding if she caused others to wonder and worry. Like not bothering to make the king-sized bed if she did not feel like it and to undo another button on her blouse.
One day this strong, amazing woman decided it was okay if she slept horizontally but alone in a king-sized bed. She looked in the mirror more often. She was told that she had a beautiful smile and that her eyes were very bright. People asked if she had lost weight. She spent her time exactly as she wished and she chose people to share time with that made the far-off future seem less scary, and even a bit nice.
The amazingly strong woman said to herself that in a manner of speaking she would be spending the rest of her life with a new person she had recently come to know and love.
And she felt happy, content, and at peace with that prospect.
One day after she decided how she felt about herself could be called love, a handsome man rode in and tried to “woo” her. He tried and tried but she wondered if there was space in her self to love another now that she so loved herself. She had come so far from where she had been when her husband first left. She did not want to go back to that place.
In addition to being handsome, he was patient. He treated her with kindness and consideration unlike anything she had known before which caused her to consider him differently. She could see in him quality and value. And she noticed that she smiled more and that her eyes seemed even brighter when they were together.
One day as they danced, the amazingly strong woman told him she loved him. The words popped from her mouth before she had time to think of their meaning. And she knew there was, in fact, space in her self to love another. And she knew more that she so loved herself that whatever way the wind blew and whatever moment of the far-off future she was in, she would not be afraid. And she vowed that from this day forward she would be true and loving and faithful.
And she felt happy, content, and at peace with that prospect