I fell in love for the first time when I was 25. I had wanted to be in love for the longest time. With all the highs life had gifted me, there was an undercurrent of loneliness, of wanting someone to share the joy with.
I found myself crying out around the 24-year-old mark: ‘Hello, universe? Is there anyone out there for me? Am I going to die an old maid? I’m not against that, I can handle it, but I would really love to experience this thing everyone talks and sings and cries about’.
I made a game plan: If I am the best version of myself living out my truth and working towards my dreams, and I met someone who is the best version of themselves, it will be pretty obvious that we want the same things and should totally be together.
Off I went, chasing dreams. I read Self Help books and got “brave” tattooed on my wrist, living out my quarter-life crisis cliché.
Maryann Wright. Source: Instagram
Roll your eyes, but Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly was actually a big help. I started to understand how to open up my heart to whatever was coming. I realised for years I had been busying myself to distraction. Juggling five jobs, my mind was a beehive of checklists.
I was happy but I was numbing myself. The highs weren’t so high because I was already thinking about the next challenge, and the lows weren’t low because I was already thinking about the next challenge. I was scared of sitting with my thoughts and confronting my ambition; of daring to fail or succeed in a big, risky way.
So I purged the busyness. I quit four jobs. I decided I wasn’t going to spend all my energy creating other people’s dreams, I needed to build my own. I didn’t have the vocabulary for that at the time; I just very politely told friends and bosses that I needed more time for me and I needed to consolidate my life into less so I could have more.
Guess what happened when I gave myself more time and space?
1. I got into The Voice Australia.
2. I got a fully-paid scholarship to study acting in New York.
3. I fell in love.
"I fell in love for the first time when I was 25." Source: Instagram
Within six months, three big things came along that needed time and energy, and I finally had both to give, along with a cracked open heart willing to take scary risks and either fly or fall.
Performing on national television taught me how to trust myself. Whatever happens, there is no need to worry because I am capable of handling whatever is coming my way – even if it is belting out a showtune in a ‘this is your one moment, don’t screw it up’ que sera moment. Studying acting in NYC taught me how to lean into the discomfort of a challenge. Big dreams take hard work, and hard work can be scary as hell.
But you know what serves up life lessons quicker than a tennis ball machine? Love. My heart was punctured. My system went into meltdown. There’s still so much that terrifies me and doesn’t make sense.
Here are some things I’m slowly getting a hang of, or what I like to call ‘The Better Late Than Never Life Lessons’:
Love is sacrifice. Love is selflessness. Love is not being in control. Love is patience and not stepping in when your brain screams for something ‘now’. Love is space. Love is commitment through ups and downs. Love is problem-solving and coming up with fun, creative ways to get back to that central focus point you two share.
Watch: Women share the craziest thing they've done for love. (Post continues after video.)
In this short time in love I have felt the highest highs and the lowest lows. I’m an independent person who can bulldoze through a ‘to do’ list like a mofo, but I’ve discovered this whole other side of myself where I am so co-dependent and my life seems to be in the other’s hands. Where any moment it seems she’s pulling away I latch on for dear life. The strong, confident Maryann turns into a sappy dog, sensitive and just longing for a cuddle.
I’ve cried more in the past four weeks than I have in the last two years. I’m raw and cut open and trying to find a midway point between this vulnerability and a bullet-proof vest strength that allows me to be self-governed and not so susceptible to people. Then, I hear Brene Brown’s voice in my head saying ‘no one said it was easy’. Riding the full highs and lows on the rollercoaster of life with vulnerability is scary and rewarding. Life has never felt so full and it has never felt so empty because the bar has been raised.
I focus on leaning into the discomfort, to the unknown, and I’m being forced to develop two qualities that have long been in need of TLC: trust and patience. Now that there’s someone in my life with the ability to so strongly give me highs and lows, rather than making that a burden, I instead relinquish the need to control those highs and lows.
Vulnerable living is just that – being open to be effected and changed by what is around you. Sure, I still need to know how to retreat into my cave for self-protection when it gets dangerous, but, I can accept that I cannot control how she feels.
Maryann and her girlfriend. Source: Instagram
Does she love me as much as I love her? Will we have a future? Should we just give up now to protect ourselves from the heartache that will eventually come if we part? Those are all questions that stem from fear. They manifest from the control-freak side that knows I am a capable person and wants to avert pain because pain is bad. But I can’t have joy without sadness. I can’t numb myself from one emotion without numbing myself to the others.
I can’t answer any of those questions of doubt either way. I don’t know the future. No one knows what the next moment has in store. So rather than stressing and letting the overwhelming fear of loneliness and destruction guide my thoughts and actions, I lean into the unknown. Sometimes that’s hard. Sometimes all I can manage is deep breathing. Sometimes all I can manage is wiping away my tears and screaming up to the heavens, ‘I want it this way so much’. That’s OK. Because 10 minutes later I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, come at me life, I’m gonna change the world’.
Having patience and giving over control for a control freak like me is a challenge but I know that surrendering is more rewarding. Life and its possibilities can expand because rather than living within the confines of my little mind and the ways it quickly solves problems to minimise spillage and mess, I can open up that box and let new solutions come to me, and let other people take the reigns.
"If you let people in, they may just surprise you." Source: Instagram
This brings me back to that golden nugget of trust: I didn’t realise I had such a hard time with trust until I did. I can relinquish power, I can relinquish control, I can trust, and that surrender makes me more powerful. Somewhere along the way with all my capability to do everything myself, I stopped letting people in. I stopped letting people give me gifts, I stopped letting people share my burden, I stopped letting myself be loved by others. If I could do it myself, I did, rather than burdening others with my load. But love is selfless. People want to give you gifts, people want to lighten your load. If you let people in, they may just surprise you.
The path to love for me was the path to trust. Trusting in the universe. Letting go of control, being patient, opening myself up to wholehearted living, taking that leap off the edge and daring greatly.
Love is a gift. It has taught me so much and I pray every night since receiving it to keep it for a little longer, and a little longer.
What’s next for me? What’s next for our love? I don’t know. She doesn’t know. You don’t know. No one knows. That’s scary as hell and liberating as hell. And since I can’t control it either way, I choose the liberating option.
Featured image: Maryann on The Voice Australia. Source: Instagram