How do you know?

For years, I remember asking my mother, friends, and role models the one question that plagues many of us since middle school. “How do you know?” Of course I was talking about boys, men, the one. How do you know? As a girl I watched many of my friends fall easily into one relationship and another. They seemed to have no problem letting people in and considering the prospect of forever with whomever, whenever. However, I was a different breed. I had interests, for sure, intrigued by this boy or that. But these interests lasted for short periods, and then I was happy to be by myself again. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to actually consider someone being there forever.

The truth was I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I was never relaxed, never at ease, never at peace with where I was. I wanted to run, I wanted to fly, I had so many things I wanted to accomplish and that I needed to prove. I was plagued by the comments of others, “You’re too sensitive, too picky, too ambitious.” I craved an attention I had never known. I was misunderstood, “That was dramatic,” they’d say. Really? I just thought I was standing up for what I believe. I was told to fit into a box, but to handle duties outside the lines of my makeup. I was asked to behave, to be brave, but not too vocal. I was conflicted, confused, and hurting.

I never needed a man and I always knew that to be true. But my entire life I yearned for someone. Someone, anyone, who would see me for who I was. I wanted to be recognized as not being sensitive, but loving justice. I wanted to be known as discerning, not as picky. I wanted to be judged, not as dramatic, but as passionate and bright. I wanted my ambition to be buzzing, attractive, striking, and adored. I wanted the scars of my childhood to show and needed, them to be given the attention and care they never received. I craved an apology for all the times one was withheld from me. And I desired forgiveness, even for that which I did not deserve.

Still I was patient, or simply naiive. I did not anxiously await, nor really believe, that someone would come along that could fulfill this role. How could one calm the anxieties in me that no one else could see? How could they quiet the phantom insecurities? How could they mend the faded scars in me?

So child,
let me give you the answer that no one else could satisfy. How do you know? You know when the conversation turns toward a subject you regularly avoid, but instead you say your piece, and he gently takes your hand. You know when stories of your past unearth, and instead of trying to decorate, rationalize, or excuse them, you let them sit, cross-legged before you on the floor, and he picks them up, dusts them off, and gently folds them into place. You know when he satisfies your questioning, when he laughs at the jokes no one understood, when he traces invisible scars, when he listens to unspoken words, when he loves the misunderstood, critiqued, ugly, damaged, scarred parts of you. Because to him, you are understood, validated, beautiful, whole, and strong.

These were the things you’ve always known you were. And that’s how you know, when he knows too.

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