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Me Before You: The Step Before Us.

When relationships end, we often give a reason. The reasons can be encapsulated in a single word. Infidelity. Abuse. Incompatibility. It requires no further explanation, as the listener nods their heads in agreement. It’s understandable, after all. They may not know our particular story, but they don’t have to. They know of one like it, having been there themselves or having heard of it before. While the experience is never easy, the explanation might be.

But sometimes the reasons aren’t so clear-cut. They require a story, the telling of it requiring a cup of coffee held tightly in our hands as we relate the slow or sudden demise of a relationship that we once wanted enough to commit to it. We reach for the words to describe the change that took place within us, the knowledge that came to us and how all of our choices were born of that knowing. We try to communicate a feeling that has to be experienced to be understood, and we try to make sense of something that sometimes doesn’t make sense to anyone else. At times it may not even make sense to ourselves.

Sometimes, the only reason we can give is that we left them for us. We chose ourselves. They could have been wonderful or looked good on paper, but they just weren’t for us. Once we know it, we can’t go back and un-know it. It’s a knowledge that sits like a stone in our hearts, getting heavier the longer we carry it.

Choosing ourselves sounds like the simplest thing in the world, but it’s often the most difficult. It might mean letting someone else down. It often means hard choices that reverberate in our lives as the people we love react to us finally choosing ourselves and what we need.

Choosing to honor what we want and need means taking a close look at who we are, which often means investigating shadows we’ve tried so hard to ignore. It’s diving deep into our lives to excavate truths rather than accepting a future that repeats the cycles of the past. It’s aligning our lives with our values, rather than the other way around. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Sometimes, it means being lonely because we know for certain that it’s better to sit with our loneliness than to use other people as a balm against it, knowing that they aren’t for us. It means choosing to focus on ourselves and what we can do to enrich our own lives rather than focusing outward on relationships that could give us only a substitute for true happiness.

Choosing ourselves is a different kind of commitment. It’s an acknowledgment that our needs matter, that we matter. It’s an acceptance of the work of the choice and the certain knowledge that not everyone will be happy with the changes. It’s committing to honoring our deepest needs and listening to our intuition rather than ignoring it in favor of a temporary relief or release.

It’s understanding that a healthy relationship with ourselves requires at least as much grit, perseverance, and hard work as a relationship with anyone else. Sometimes more.

But we choose ourselves because there comes a point where to do otherwise feels unbearable. So we take the risk, make the leap, do the thing we think we cannot do. We transform, and to anyone who doesn’t know us at a soul level, it might look sudden or out of character. It might hurt feelings and change lives. But we do it anyway because we matter, too, and these are our lives happening here, and we get tired of living them for everyone but ourselves.

We leave. We set ourselves free. We sit down with coffee held tight in our hands and tell the stories of how we chose ourselves, even if that’s not what we say. We just know the reason isn’t as clear-cut as some others. We know only that we did what we had to do to save who we could. Ourselves. Because we matter as much as anyone else.

"When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn't healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits - anything that kept me small. My judgement called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving." - averstu.com