“It’s too late for me.”
“I’m too damaged.”
“I won’t be able to love again. To trust again.”
“Nobody will want me with all this baggage.”
“I’m going to be alone forever.”
Those were all thoughts that cycled stubbornly through my reeling mind after I was abandoned by my first husband. I was afraid that I would never again experience that greatest feeling in the world of returning to the sanctuary of loving arms after a bad day. I grew convinced that nobody else would ever whisper, “Love you,” as he slid my glasses off of my sleeping face. My mind’s eye alternated between playing slideshows of the happy moments of my now-defunct marriage and scenes from an imagined future where I grew ever-older and ever-lonelier.
It seems almost laughable to me now as I look back at that early end-of-the-world mindset that turned out not to have any prophetic powers.
It was anything but laughable at the time.
Those fears, sensing a new and fragile void, rushed in and filled every crevice with doubt about hope and conviction about despair. And I was a captive listener.
There are five lies that those fears are telling you. Falsehoods that feed on vulnerabilities and insecurities at a time when our defenses are down and we crave some certainty in our torn and tattered lives.
When you start to recognize those lies, it helps to silence the fear:
Fear Tells Us Now is Always
At the end of a marriage, all you feel is loss. An ever-aching wound after a tooth has been pulled from its anchor. And when you’re feeling loss, it’s practically impossible to imagine joy. And it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that the way it is now – hurting, lonely, scared – is the way it will always be.
Yet the one certainty in life is change. Today, whether good or bad, always morphs into tomorrow, often bringing with it unexpected visitors. Right now, you feel alone. Right now, you feel unloved. Right now, you hurt. Tomorrow? Who knows?
I was so proud of one of my students the other day. She confided, “I don’t like my life right now.” There’s wisdom for all of us in her last two words. The life you have now will not be the life you have tomorrow.
And fear possesses no special powers. It holds no crystal ball. It doesn’t try to predict the future, it simply projects the worst.
Now is not always. And now will always change.
Fear Tells Us It’s Too Late
I was weeks shy of 32 when I was unceremoniously dumped via text message. And I thought it was too late for me to find love again. It was an absurd thought for me to have – my parents remarried after that age, I had plenty of friends who had found love well beyond their early 30s and I knew many people who were actively dating in my age range.
But none of that mattered.
Because here’s the thing with age –
The oldest you’ve ever been is the age you are at. this. moment.
You’ve experienced every age below you. And everything yet to come is merely a guess. And that fear of being alone loves to convince you that it’s all going downhill from here.
And so we remember love at our younger selves and we imagine being alone with our older self.
I have many love mentors in my life that I have looked to in times when I have been in need of hope. One couple, now happily married in their seventies, met in their sixties.
The truth is that the only time it’s too late is when you believe it’s too late.
And not a moment sooner.
Fear Tells Us We’ve Lost the One
In the beginning, I wanted to date men like my former husband because all I could imagine loving was my former husband. If I couldn’t have the one, at least I could try to find a reasonable facsimile.
As you can imagine, that didn’t work out too well.
Much like the only ages we know are the ones we’ve lived, the only loves we know are the ones we’ve had.
So it’s easy to believe that the one slipped through the cracks beyond hope of retrieve.
I eventually realized that I didn’t want an ex-shaped new love. I had changed. I no longer wanted the same person. I opened up to the possibility of something new. Unknown.
Very few of us will move through our lives with only a single romantic love. Yet no matter how many we’ve experienced, it’s always difficult to imagine one more.
It reminds me of something I heard a pregnant friend say while rubbing her belly- “I just can’t imagine loving this one as much as I do the others.” Her three children played nearby. Even though she had felt and surpassed these doubts twice before, fear was still planting seeds in her mind. And no surprise, fear was wrong. She loved baby number four just as much as the others.
You may have lost one. You haven’t lost the only one.
Fear Tells Us We Are Doomed to Repeat the Past
Just as I was starting to get my dating sea legs under me, I was ghosted. Again. This time by a man that was speaking of a possible future and trying to convince me to stay in Atlanta instead of continuing with my planned escape out of the region.
Here’s how I saw it – Once was a fluke. Twice was a pattern.
I was doomed to be dumped.
As with many lies fear tells, this one has some basis in reality. If I continued to attach anxiously, I would cause the past to stutter and repeat.
But if I changed, the pattern would change as well.
We are not merely toy boats upon the stream, subject to the whims of the currents and the waves. Although we cannot control the stream, we can improve our vessel and learn how to better steer around obstacles.
It’s important to study the past. Not so that we know what to expect, but so that we can make better decisions going forward.
You’re only doomed to repeat the past if you’re stuck in the past.
Fear Tells Us It Is Reality
Fear is well-practiced at slipping on the disguises of concern and pragmatism, when really it is distracting us from rational thought. It pretends that it is telling us the harsh truths we need to hear to make us better while holding us back with ties of fiction. Fear pretends to whisper the future when it is actually keeping us prisoner of the past.
Fear makes for a poor life coach.
Time to fire your fear of being alone.
Learn to embrace this pause. This moment between. This period when you’re unmoored and unattached.
And be open to tomorrow. Be open to possibilities. Be open to love.