We live in a world that doesn't appreciate women made of mountain.
Many years ago, I was very in love with a boy who mostly loved me back. I was nineteen and approached most relationships the same way I'd seen most women in my family model for me — have someone waiting in the wings, cut and run when things got tough, lather, rinse, repeat.
This was the first time I really wanted to stay, even through the tough stuff. After a few years together, filled with the inevitable ups and downs of love that is happening at the same time you're trying to make the leap into adulthood, we broke up.
For a week or two, I just kind of collapsed in on myself, an accordion of sadness. I worked in a mall at the time, an endlessly boring job at a mobile phone kiosk, and since I manned it alone, I had a lot of time to read. One day, browsing through the bookstore I spent many lunch breaks wandering around in, I came across a book called Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood. It changed my life.
There was one quote in particular that became my mantra:
"It requires a hard look at what is, rather than what you hope will be. As you let go of managing and controlling, you must also let go of the idea that 'when he changes I'll be happy.' He may never change. You must stop trying to make him. And you must learn to be happy anyway."
I don't know what it was that caused that to resound so deeply for me but it burned a path from my heart straight through my brain, and rang like a bell there for weeks. I couldn't make anybody change! I had to learn to be happy on my own! These were novel concepts to me — and they came with an incredible amount of freedom.
A few months later, on my birthday, he showed up at my house with very sweet gifts and the even sweeter sentiment of wanting to get back together. Shockingly, I had to think about it. If he'd asked even a month earlier, the words wouldn't have been all the way out of his mouth before I jumped on them.
In the end, I said yes, but only on the condition that things be different this time. He agreed, and I'm sure he meant it at the time. The few months we made it after that were full of eye-opening life lessons that serve me to this day.
When he was acting passive-aggressively, I hung up the phone or I left. When he withdrew affection as a way to punish me for an argument, I got up and closed the door behind me without another word. No more begging and pleading, no more wondering what I'd done wrong this time, no more crying and craziness and self-loathing.
I wasn't trying to change him. I had changed myself, and was learning to be happy on my own. I was STRONG. So of course he dumped me.
But! He dumped me in the kindest way possible. In fact, it was probably the nicest thing he ever did for me. In his brother's garage, under a bare light bulb, while we both cried, he held my hand and told me I deserved better than him.
He was right. I did. And it was that newly acquired strength that made him see it.
Because it's easier to walk all over a doormat than it is to scale a mountain. When you're accommodating, pliable, willing to bend over backwards to placate, you attract the kind of people who will always need to change you. But when you surround the sweetness of your heart with thousands of feet of stone, it's a whole lot harder to break you.
We've got it tough, those of us who rose as alpha females from the ashes of our former selves. We live in a world that doesn't appreciate women made of mountain. We get dumped a lot. We don't get asked out on dates. We don't get asked out on SECOND dates.
We scare small men away. We get doors slammed in our faces instead of having them held open. We get labeled as bossy bitches and ball-breakers. We've learned that what we allow is what will continue, so we don't make many allowances, and heaven knows the dating scene is all about making allowances for people.
So where does that leave us? Lonely? Maybe sometimes. Discouraged? Yeah, occasionally. But desperate? Nah.
Becoming my own Mount Everest meant losing someone I loved a lot. But it also meant seeing the world from 28 thousand feet up. And after a while, I found someone who wanted to share that view with me.
You will, too.