It was after midnight when someone tagged me on Facebook. I checked to see what it was.
“Came across this going through some old photos from about 5 years ago,” this person wrote as his caption next to big words on a picture. “Words of wisdom from David McElroy.”
I don’t remember writing the words, but it sounds like my voice, so I’m sure I did. As I read the words, I agreed with them, but I found myself painfully aware that I haven’t always lived up to them.
“You can’t force someone to believe you are worth making a priority,” I wrote, apparently about five years ago. “If you try, you will end up bitter, hurt and angry. If a person doesn’t value you enough to make you a priority, it doesn’t matter what he or she says — even if the words are, ’I love you.’ Love is lived out through priorities and actions, not words and wishes. If you wait and beg to become someone’s priority, you’re not showing how much you love someone else. You’re showing how little you value yourself.”
I remember what it feels like to be a woman’s priority.
It’s been a long time, but I remember exactly what it feels like. It’s not something you forget, because it makes you feel as though you measure up. No matter what your shortcomings might be, you feel “good enough” if someone wants you enough to make you his or her priority.
It’s been more than 10 years now, but I can still conjure the warm feeling of acceptance when I put myself back in that state of mind.
She loved me, but it was more than that. She accepted what I was. She wanted what I was. I wasn’t her second choice. I wasn’t her back-up plan. I wasn’t someone who could love her while she wished that she could make me into a different person.
She loved and appreciated my desire to make art. She was supportive and excited about what she believed I could do. She believed I had to the talent to make good films. She was even the motivation that caused me to make my one short film. And she liked the idea of being married to someone who pursued this art.
She was deeply interested in the same sorts of ideas and philosophical discussions that are natural to me. She didn’t just tolerate such discussions. She relished them as much as I do. It made her happy to sit and talk for hours — or to carry on long and involved discussions by email that went on for days.
She knew I didn’t especially care whether I got wealthy or not. She was just as disdainful as I was of people who were impressed by the outward shiny symbols of worldly success. She liked nice things — just as much as I do — but she thought I was worth having as her own, whether I ended up rich and famous. Or not.
That relationship ended long ago. The reasons why don’t matter. This isn’t really about her. She’s married and we’re both different people now than we were then. We’ve moved on with our lives. I’m not wishing I had her back.
But I am remembering the warmth and the comfort of being wanted and accepted and needed, just as I was. I want that back. I need that back. I don’t need it from her. And I don’t know anybody else who’s willing to give it to me. I just know that I need it.
I’m very clear on the sort of woman I want. I’ve talked about it before. She’s beautiful and brilliant and impressive. She’s lots of things and I could talk about her with excitement and joy for hours.
But most of all, she wants me. Whoever she is. Whoever she might turn out to be. She wants the best of me and she’s willing to accept that I’m working on the worst.
She’s willing to accept that I’m not someone else. She’s not wishing she could make me into something I’m not. And I’m not having to beg her to make me her priority — because she wants me so much that we matter.
What I wrote five years ago is true. I can’t force someone to believe I’m worth making a priority. I know from experience that the attempt makes me bitter, hurt and angry.
The woman I need wants me as the person I am. But I still haven’t found that woman.