Dating and baggage

In the time I've been dating (the past 3 1/2 years or so) I haven't dated that much (see my blog post about being picky for why), but the vast majority of guys I have dated are divorced. When I tell my friends or family I'm going out with a guy who's divorced, someone inevitably says "Divorced. Beware of baggage." Emotional baggage is what the well-meaning person means (if they meant actual baggage, that would be a plus since I'm actually in the market for a new roller bag, but I digress.) It seems the thought is that if someone has "baggage", you need to be wary of getting involved with them. I think of it a different way: if at this point in our lives you don't have "baggage" isn't that more of a concern?

Take, for example, a guy who is in the same "emotional baggage" arena as me: someone who had an unfaithful spouse and is a little heartbroken, a little fragile and A LOT cautious of jumping into something new. It's funny, whenever I get ready to go out with someone new, I have both excitement that I may be meeting a great person, and tremendous fear that I may be meeting someone really REALLY great. I want a relationship. I want to fall in love. I would even get married again (on a beach or in a garden, sun shining, family and friends around, James Taylor's "How sweet it is to be loved by you" as I walk down the aisle. Not that I've thought about this or anything....) but I'm also terrified.

Falling in love the first time required a tremendous leap of faith. Faith that I didn't necessarily have either because my parents had a terrible divorce, or the person I was falling in love with wasn't right for me, or just because that amount of love and faith being vested in someone else is freaking scary; most likely it was some combination of those. When I got married I believed I was marrying "THE ONE". Sure, I had to do 2 shots of whisky before walking down the aisle (which my therapist later informed me is actually a sign that he was not "THE ONE" - of course I didn't know that until many years and therapy sessions later) but I did it. I made a vow to someone to be with him through good times and bad until death. Turns out "good times and bad" led us to divorce, not death.

I'm not sorry about that now- I'm happier being out of a bad marriage- but I am still afraid. Afraid to trust someone wholly and completely again. Afraid NOT to trust someone wholly and completely again. Afraid of being single forever. Afraid of choosing wrong again. Afraid of putting myself out there. Afraid of not living life to the fullest.

We all have baggage. We all have bruised hearts and egos from the past. And that's not bad. It means we've been out there, living life, trusting, loving and even if it didn't work out, it was worth it. It means that we are learning both what we want in our next relationship and what we don't. It means we know what we're looking for and what we need to avoid. It means we have baggage, but it's not a complete set. Someone out there has the roller bag I'm looking for. I know it in my heart. And when he comes around I will put my faith in me and in him and in love. Because I've lived and I've loved and I know, even though I've been hurt, it has all led me in the right direction. To the right person. At the exact right time.

After all, this is the life.

- a